Formal schooling is often too expensive and priced well beyond the reach of the poor, including tobacco farmers. Thus, the Wong Chu King Foundation (WCKF) is offering 100 college scholarship grants to poor but deserving children of tobacco farmers in Northern Luzon.
The program is one of three components of a P10-million joint project of Mighty Corp. (MC) and the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers and Cooperatives Inc. (NAFTAC) that aims to benefit 65,000 farmers in Pangasinan, La Union, Abra, Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
The WCKF is the corporate social responsibility arm of MC, which the Wong Chu King family owns. “This is our way of thanking the farmers for helping to make our company what it is today,” said retired general Edilberto Adan, MC president and chief executive officer, at the formal signing rites for the project at a hotel in Bauang, La Union on February 8.
“We are happy that Mighty Corp., through its Wong Chu King Foundation, has stood firm on its commitment to help 65,000 tobacco farmers in the Philippines,” said Mario Cabasal, NAFTAC national president, at the signing, attended by top MC executives and 200 farmer leaders.
Retired Judge Oscar Barrientos, MC executive vice president and spokesman, said the WCKF initially offered scholarships to the dependents of active MC employees but later expanded this to include dependents of retired MC employees and poor but deserving students with excellent academic records.
Other components of the project include agricultural production assistance, consisting of 16 hand tractors worth P2.5 million and 90 irrigation pumps worth P1.1 million; and institutional support for the annual search for outstanding tobacco farmers and cooperatives by the National Tobacco Administration.
The foundation has six high school and 14 college students on scholarship in various schools nationwide. Two of its college scholars graduated last year.
WCKF also donated P300,000 for textbooks and other library materials of Lyceum de Amulung in Cagayan North, Tuguegarao City last year. In 2012, it provided textbooks, laboratory and home economics equipment to Lyceum de Amulung and teaching devices to Lyceum de Amulung’s teachers.
At last, we finally get to hear some good news from Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares.
Earlier this month, the BIR commissioner, known for running after lowly taxpayers, has issued her findings favoring local tobacco manufacturing firm, Mighty Corp. over tobacco giant foreign entity Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC).
In her agency’s findings, Henares ruled out the alleged cigarette smuggling activities being attributed by PMFTC against Mighty saying there exist no such wrongdoing in the Philippine tobacco industry.
Mighty Corp., a Bulacan-based cigarette manufacturer, became a subject of accusations that they are involved in technical smuggling, tax evasion and all other possible crimes, which its accuser claim, has enabled Mighty to sell its tobacco products at a very low prices, as low as P16 per stick pack.
However, Henares said that tobacco companies were just being aggressive in seizing market shares from big industry players since the enactment of the new excise tax regime.
Based on reports, Mighty was able to gain a remarkable 20 percent of the country’s smoking consumers from three percent last year, while industry leader and foreign entity PMFTC holds 75 percent from a strong 92 percent before January 2013.
But Wongchuking family-owned and proud Filipino company has denied all the allegations of smuggling or any form of illegal business practices thrown at them by competitors and critics, saying the company managed to lower its operational cost as it does not pay royalty to foreign headquarters and has no foreign consultants, saying imputing fraud against them was “unfair but highly libelous and damaging” as the BIR and Customs authorities have been closely monitoring their operations, reporting and compliance. In spite of this, they have assured the public that they are open to government’s plan to examine its books along with its competitors to ensure proper compliance of all tobacco industry players with the new Sin Tax Law.
Of course, Henares has to refute PMFTC’s allegations.
For if what PMFTC has been accusing Mighty of is true, then how come it has asked the BIR to reclassify four of its Marlboro cigarette brands as low-priced tobacco products in an apparent bid to reclaim its market share from Mighty?
According to sources, PMFTC has already introduced its low-priced Marlboro cigarettes in Mindanao, selling it at P1 per stick.
So the question, if PMFTC claims Mighty cannot sell cigarettes at P16 per pack or P0.80 a stick without resorting to technical smuggling and underdeclaration, then how can it do the same without also resorting to such illegal acts?
While we expect PMFTC to deny any illegality in its undertaking and claim claim it can sell low-priced cigarettes without violating any law, so can Mighty Corp.
So, would PMFTC pursue its quest for Congress to probe Mighty Corp. for alleged technical smuggling and underdeclaration?
According to Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon, PMFTC cannot come to Congress with unclean hands if it insists Mighty is resorting to illegal acts while it could also been doing the same lately.
And Congress insiders bare the House committee on ways and means would start its hearing on the tobacco issue sometime in the middle of next month.
And PMFTC has to contend with Henares’ adverse findings against it when Congress compels them to prove their allegations against Mighty.
At least Kim is siding with lowly Filipino taxpayers this time.