MANILA – Philip Morris International Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC), the local unit of tobacco giant Philip Morris International and Lucio Tan's Fortune Tobacco, took its allegations of fraudulent acts against rival Mighty Corp. to major broadsheets on Wednesday through full-color paid advertisements.
PMFTC placed ads in the Philippine Star and Philippine Daily Inquirer that showed government data to accuse Mighty of misdeclaring its domestic cigarette production to avoid taxes.
The print ad, which had the words “Mighty Corp. Exposed,” compared Mighty’s export and domestic production with other manufacturers combined.
PMFTC, citing the Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO) report, alleged that Mighty declared imports of 37.6 million kilograms of tobacco leaf to be used for export in 2013 and less than a million kilos (around 200,000) for domestic use.
Other manufacturers combined, on the other hand, declared imports of 31.7 million kilograms for domestic use and only 1.4 million for export in 2013.
“Government data says Mighty imported massive quantities of tobacco between 2011 to 2013 for export only. Mighty declared almost zero for domestic use. How could they have produced cigarettes for the Philippine market?” PMFTC said in the ad.
PMFTC president Paul Riley said in a statement that his cigarette company was compelled to pay for a space in newspapers after Mighty allegedly “misinformed” the public about the results of the STSRO report.
“Our intention is to highlight key facts and data uncovered in the government report that points to Mighty’s questionable business practices that not only harms legitimate tax-paying companies like us but also significantly impacts key government programs as envisaged in the sin tax law,” Riley said.
“Every company should pay their fair share of taxes for the development of the nation. This is the resounding message. We are hopeful that this would lead to more positive results,” he added.
Mighty has repeatedly denied the accusations by PMFTC, calling its allegations as part of a “resurrected smear campaign.”
“PMFTC’s pathetic attempts to resurrect its discredited campaign against Mighty show the depth of their desperation. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible and malicious behavior of Philip Morris. This latest smear campaign is unacceptable and should be dealt with accordingly,” Mighty executive vice president Oscar Barrientos earlier said.
The Bulacan-based firm also discredited the STSRO report, saying it was a rehash of the UK-based Oxford Economics study, which was commissioned by PMI.
PMI and Tan’s Fortune Tobacco jointly owns PMFTC.
Tan, the Philippines' second richest man, had his share of tax evasion charges amounting to billions of pesos in the past, but the tycoon was cleared in 2006.