WTO puts off Thailand-Philippines cigarette tax row verdict

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2010 09:42 PM | Updated as of Mar 16 2010 05:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The World Trade Organization pushed back its verdict on the cigarette tax row between the Thailand and the Philippines.

Trade assistant secretary Jose Antonio Buencamino told reporters on Monday said the panel formed by the WTO has sought a one-month extension on the release of its report on the issue. The verdict is now expected to be released by end-April.

Buencamino said the panel sought for an extension to give it time to review the facts presented on the case. "It's a fact-intensive case," said Buencamino.

When the WTO panel releases its interim report, the parties have 2 to 3 weeks to appeal before the WTO's dispute settlement board (DSB) makes the final decision. The DSB normally adopts the recommendations of the panel.

Buencamino said the Philippines does not intend to appeal the panel's verdict. "We made a good pleading," said Buencamino.

Based on his estimates, the final report should be out end of May.

The case stemmed from Bangkok's decision to slap a bond on imports from Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc., making the multinational firm's cigarettes more expensive in Thailand.

Philip Morris, which has manufacturing plants in Batangas and Subic, has already reduced its exports to Thailand by 20% due to the tax issue.

The Philippine government's position is that Bangkok's policy promotes discrimination and protectionism.

The case has been on-going since 2006.