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British American Tobacco to invest $200 million in Phl

MANILA, Philippines – British American Tobacco, maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes is pushing through with its plan to invest $200 million in the Philippines over the next five years following Congress’ approval of the sin tax reform measure.

BAT warned in July that it would pull out of its investment plan if the Aquino administration fails to pass the measure.

“We will not pour the money in until excise reform is done,” BAT Philippines general manager James Michael Lafferty said in July.

Yesterday, BAT confirmed that it would proceed with its $200-million investment plan following Congress’ approval of a new sin tax measure

“In light of these latest developments, and in anticipation of President Aquino signing the bill soon, we confirm that we are investing at minimum $200 million over the next five years. We are looking forward to competing in the market and contributing to the growth of the Philippine economy,” BAT said in a statement.

The money would be used to expand its presence in the Philippines, possibly through the construction of a manufacturing plant, Lafferty earlier said. The cigarette company expressed its gratitude to the Executive Department and Congress in reforming the country’s sin tax regime after 16 years.

“BAT salutes the wisdom and courage of the Executive Department and Congress in taking the bold step of reforming the Sin Tax Law after 16 years,” the company said.

It believes that the new law will be beneficial to the Philippines for the additional revenues it will generate for the health sector.

“We believe that contrary to the predictions of doomsayers, this new law will be beneficial to the country for the additional revenues it will generate for funding its social programs and to the tobacco industry where players can now compete on a level playing field,” it said.

BAT pulled out of the local market in 2009 because it said the local cigarette industry was not a level playing field.

Under the current system, 1996 brands, which cover the brands of Fortune Tobacco, are permanently classified regardless of an increase in net retail prices but post-1996 brands are classified based on current retail prices.

Now, with the passage of a new sin tax law, BAT said it is looking forward to a level playing field.

“It can – and we are confident it will — open up expanded opportunities for the industry stakeholders, not only the manufacturers but distributors, retailers, employees and the tobacco farmers,” BAT said.

Congress ratified on Tuesday a new sin tax measure that would effectively raise the prices of cigarettes and alcohol.

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