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August 7th, 2015:

Legislator asked to account for P857 million in tobacco excise tax

By Orly Guirao | Correspondent

DAGUPAN CITY—Five years after receiving the sum of P857 million as the local government’s share from the burley and native tobacco excise tax, former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco has yet to account in full how the money was spent.

The tobacco excise tax he received for the Fifth District of Pangasinan is bigger than the so-called missing P600-million fertilizer-subsidy fund that in time became the much-publicized fertilizer scam under the Arroyo administration.

Cojuangco would not directly address questions posed by a farmers’ group, called the Save Pangasinan Movement Inc. (SPMI), on how he spent the money intended for the tobacco farmers. They particularly asked if the money was used to establish the Dairy Farm in Laoac town, which has allegedly become a white elephant, unable to pay its own employees.

In his defense, Cojuangco said he established the dairy farm in 2004 with funds from his priority development assistance fund (PDAF).

“If ever, the tobacco tax was used for maintenance,” he told tobacco farmers in a paid advertisement published recently in a local weekly newspaper, The Sunday Punch.

But instead of accounting for each peso spent, Cojuangco told the farmers to ask Gov. Amado T. Espino Jr. how the province spent its 10-percent share of the tax bonanza.

Manuel Tolentino and Fleurdeliz Cabalteja, president and secretary-general, respectively, of SPMI, also quizzed Cojuango for supporting the allegedly unfair sharing scheme of the tobacco excise tax, which was passed by Congress when the legislator was chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Tax Reform.

Under Republic Act (RA) 8240, congressmen were allocated the lion’s share of 80 percent of the tax, while host provinces, including Pangasinan, were allocated a 10-percent share and the producing towns and cities, another 10 percent.

They compared the sharing scheme of RA 7171, known as the Virginia tobacco excise-tax law, authored by then Ilocos Sur Rep. Luis “Chavit” Singson, which provides for a more equitable and realistic sharing scheme of 30 percent for the provinces, 40 percent for the towns or cities and 30 percent for congressmen.

In the heat of the campaign period leading up to the May 10, 2010, national and local elections, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed an executive order releasing P6.37 billion to provinces that grew burley and native tobacco, led by Pangasinan and Isabela.

The one-time windfall represented the share of local governments from incremental excise taxes on burley and native tobacco products for 10 years, from 1997 to 2007, in compliance with the law mandating a sharing of the excise tax.

Of the amount, congressmen in whose districts were towns that grew the tobacco got the lion’s share of P5.09 billion, while provinces, cities and towns in their territories had to share among themselves only P1.273 billion.

This meant 80 percent went to legislators and only 10 percent each for the host province and the producing towns and cities.

Under that scheme, the provincial government of Pangasinan was allotted a share of P216,171,317. The same amount was allocated to 26 towns, plus the city of Urdaneta in four tobacco-growing congressional districts in central and eastern Pangasinan.

The bulk of the money, a total of P 1.725 billion, was released to the congressmen of the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth districts of Pangasinan.

Cojuangco, who hails from the Fifth District made up of Urdaneta City plus eight towns, allegedly got the lion’s share of more than P857 million.

Third District Rep. Rachel Arenas was second with a share of P491.6 million, while Sixth District Rep. Marlyn Primicias Agabas got P375 million.

Rep. Gina de Venecia (Fourth District) received the smallest amount of P99 million from the tax bonanza.

The congressmen received their shares in the second quarter of 2010 under a monetization scheme allegedly engineered by Cojuangco and just in time for the 2010 elections.

The share of the provincial government was budgeted for spending the following year of 2011.

When the funds were released, Malacañang reminded provincial officials that the tobacco tax must only be used for cooperative projects that enhance better-quality farm products and increase farmers’ income and support livelihood projects, particularly the development of alternative farming systems, and agro-industrial projects like postharvest and processing facilities that will eventually be owned by tobacco farmers.

Tobacco field bacteria offers hope for buzz-kill smoking therapy

Subterranean ‘baccy microbe guzzles down nicotine ‘like Pac-Man’

7 Aug 2015 at 14:34, John Leyden

Help may soon be at hand for those who have tried and failed to quit smoking, thanks to a bacterium that guzzles down nicotine.

Chemistry boffins reckon the organism may hold the key to a future anti-smoking therapy.

An enzyme from the Pseudomonas putida bacterium – originally isolated from soil in a tobacco field – consumes nicotine as its sole source of carbon and nitrogen. Research from not-for-profit The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) shows that this NicA2 enzyme can be recreated in the lab while retaining its potency, thus making it a potential candidate for drug development.

The enzyme therapy would be used to seek out and destroy nicotine before it reaches the brain, depriving a smoker of the buzz from nicotine that can trigger a relapse into smoking.

“Our research is in the early phase of the drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,” said Kim Janda, a professor of chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI, in a statement.

Current smoking cessation aids fail in 80-90 per cent of cases. A drug based on the tobacco-burning bacterial enzyme could reduce the attraction of cigarettes, which might therefore be more effective than nicotine substitute therapies, such as patches and the like.

Early tests of the enzyme therapy, which have not as yet even progressed towards testing on live animals, have reportedly been encouraging.

The researchers first combined blood serum from mice with a dose of nicotine equivalent to one cigarette. When they added the enzyme, the nicotine’s half-life dropped from two to three hours to just 9 to 15 minutes. A higher dose of the enzyme – and a few chemical modifications – could reduce the half-life of nicotine even further and keep it from ever reaching the brain, according to Janda and his team.

The enzyme stayed stable in the lab for more than three weeks at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Even more importantly, the researchers detected no toxic metabolites produced when the enzyme degraded nicotine. The next step is to alter the enzyme’s bacterial make-up, which will help mitigate potential immune liabilities, while maximising its therapeutic potential.

“Hopefully, we can improve its serum stability with our future studies, so that a single injection may last up to a month,” according to Song Xue, a TSRI graduate student and first author of a new study on the putative therapy.

For more than 30 years, Janda and his colleagues have struggled to create a nicotine reward-suppressing biochemical in the lab. Now they have run across a potential enzyme in nature. “The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man,” according to Janda. “It goes along and eats nicotine.”

Shopkeeper who used secret chute to sell smuggled tobacco is rumbled by sniffer dog


Manchester trader Amir Sohail was fined £3,000 after trading standards officers and their four-legged friend Bertie found a pipe leading to an upstairs room


A shopkeeper was caught out selling dodgy tobacco after a sniffer dog found a secret chute behind his counter.

Amir Sohail had installed the sophisticated delivery system where £10,000 of cigarettes, loose tobacco and snuff was hidden in an upstairs room.

Investigators said that when an order was placed the 44-year-old would radio upstairs where the smuggled tobacco was put into a chute below the floorboards of the first floor room.

It would come out of a secret hatch behind the ground floor shop counter.

But his scam unravelled after trading standards officers received a tip-off and sent ‘tobacco sniffer dog’ Bertie who discovered the chute.


Council trading standards officers seized 3,500 cigarettes, 2kg of tobacco and 27 packets of snuff from Sohail’s shop in Levenshulme. Manchester.

They found them in an upstairs room where a piece of flooring had been removed, revealing the top of a pipe leading to the shop below.

At Manchester Magistrates Court Sohail pleaded guilty to selling illicit tobacco products.

He was fined £3,000, plus £957 costs and a £300 victims of crime surcharge. HK$52,000

Sohail had been previously prosecuted for similar offences in January 2014, when he was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £900, plus a £15 victims of crime surcharge.


Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “Illicit tobacco products are often sold to customers at a much lower price than their legal equivalents, making it easier for children to start smoking and become addicted to tobacco.

“They are often manufactured in completely unregulated environments.

“This case demonstrates the lengths that some unscrupulous traders will go to in order to disguise their criminal activities, but also that our officers will stop at nothing to find them.

“The size of the fine shows the courts agree with us about the severity of the offence.”

Swadlincote shopkeeper fined £4k for counterfeit tobacco

A SOUTH Derbyshire shopkeeper has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £2,737 costs for eight offences of possessing and selling counterfeit tobacco =. HK$ 81,000

Dana Hamid, 34, of Littleover, pleaded guilty to each of the offences at Derby Magistrates’ Court following a successful prosecution by Derbyshire County Council.

He admitted seven charges of the sale and possession of counterfeit tobacco under section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 and one charge, under Regulation 8 of the General Product safety Regulations 2005, of possession for sale of cigarettes without the legally required in-built fire safety features.

The offences took place at ‘The Sweet Shop’, in Church Street, Swadlincote, where Hamid had taken over the tenancy in November 2013.

Trading standards officers seized 8,640 cigarettes and 11.3kg of hand-rolling tobacco. The fake cigarettes were being sold for around £3.50 a pack and the pouches at around £10 which would have totaled an illicit retail value of almost £4,000.

Hamid was fined £500 for each of the eight offences, ordered to pay costs of £2,687 and a victim surcharge of £50.

Councillor Dave Allen said: “This is yet another successful court case which highlights our clear message to traders who sell illegal tobacco that we will not tolerate it.”