Tobacco taxation, smuggling and plain packaging

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last June 04, 2018.

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“To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did, I ought to know because I’ve done it a thousand times.” — Mark Twain

On May 29, 2018, I attended the “Health for Juan and Juana” conference on universal health care (UHC) at the PICC, jointly sponsored by the DoH, ADB, PHAP, MeTA, Havas, AC Health, others.

It was a big event with many participants and high-powered speakers and facilitators from national and local governments, multilaterals, NGOs, academe and private players.

Listening to the health officials of Davao, Makati, Bataan, and South Cotabato, I got the impression that with the way they provide health care to their constituents, it is possible to abolish the DoH and realign its budget to LGUs.

The keynote speaker was Sen. JV Ejercito, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and he talked about his UHC bill, the public consultations, the financing including his proposal to further hike tobacco tax to P90/pack. It is a far-out number compared with P30/pack in 2017 under Sin Tax law of 2012 (RA 10351), to become P35/pack in 2018, P37.50 in 2019, then P40/pack in 2022 under TRAIN law (RA 10963).

Since corruption in government remains high, higher tax rates mean higher tax avoidance. Lots of cigarette smuggling occurred in 2015-2016 involving billions of pesos of avoided taxes. In February 2017 for instance, the Bureau of Customs estimated that some P50B of foregone taxes in 2016 were due to smuggling, about P16B of it was from cigarette smuggling.

If the numbers are correct and if we divide P16B over P29/pack excise tax in 2016, that was equivalent to 552 million packs of cheap cigarettes. Cheap cigarettes encourage more smoking and, as a result, higher tobacco taxes achieve an opposite result.

With higher tobacco tax this year because of TRAIN law, cigarette smuggling has continued.

For instance, a BusinessWorld report on May 01, 2018 said “DoF warns cigarette smuggling may be helping finance terrorism.”

DoF Secretary Sonny Dominguez was quoted, “Illegal money can end up funding terrorist activities” while Customs Commissioner Caesar Dulay said that “smuggled cigarettes are currently flooding the market.”

High taxation and explicit prohibitions are often two sides of the same coin. One policy done by governments abroad is the prohibition of displaying the tobacco companies’ names, logos, and brands via plain packaging policy. So all cigarette packs by all players, old and new, established or fly-by-night, will display similar designs and graphic warnings.

After implementing plain packaging policies since December 2012, illegal tobacco consumption in Australia has increased from an estimated 11.5% to 13.5% in 2012 to up to 15.0% in 2017 (source: KPMG, “Illicit Tobacco in Australia, Full Year 2017 Report,” April 20, 2018).

This because many new players, including those engaged in criminality and terrorism, have come in, produced cheap cigarettes since plain packaging is much easier to copy, and attracted more buyers and smokers.

The United Kingdom also enacted the plain packaging policy in May 2017 and after one year, (1) no significant decline in smoking incidence happened, partly or largely because (2) cheap counterfeit plain packs surfaced.

The counterfeits were found to have high tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than those allowed in UK, and in some cases, are found to contain heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead, along with other toxic contaminants: asbestos, mold, dust, dead flies, rat droppings — and even human excrement. (Sources: The Times, “Illegal tobacco tainted by asbestos and rats,” May 16, 2017; Evening Standard, “Sniffer dogs with GoPro bodycams help uncover 30,000 fake cigarettes in Soho crackdown,” May 24, 2017).

Meanwhile, the World Justice Project (WJP) produces an annual study, the “Rule of Law Index” (RoLI) and score countries based on their performance on 8 factors and 44 sub-factors. The RoLI 2017-2018 Report involves more than 110,000 households as respondents and 3,000 expert surveyors in 113 countries and jurisdictions.

A summary is shown below, focused on Factor 6: Regulatory Enforcement (Government regulations are effectively enforced, applied and enforced without improper influence; Administrative proceedings are conducted without unreasonable delay, etc.)

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So if Australia and the UK with better rule of law implementation have experienced high and rising incidence of illicit trade and smuggling of cheap cigarettes, how much more for developing countries like the Philippines?

If the Philippines will consider imposing higher tobacco taxes like the P90/pack proposal by Sen. Ejercito, and/or if it is to consider plain packaging policy, given its low rule of law culture and poor regulatory enforcement, a doubling of current extent of illicit trade and smuggling can be expected.

Which means more fake and cheap cigarettes will come in, and there will be more smoking and smokers, not less.

More government taxation and prohibitions create adverse selection problems; the law of unintended consequences always kicks in as nature abhors a vacuum.

 

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is President of Minimal Government Thinkers, a member-institute of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

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Intellectual property rights in East Asia

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last April 19, 2018.

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The degree of wealth and economic size of East Asian economies generally correlate with their degree of private property rights protection, both physical and non-physical or intellectual property. While protection of physical properties like houses, cars, and land are easier to see and measure, the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) like patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are not so tangible.

IPRs are important because they represent the “heart and soul” of private enterprises and the goods and services that they produce.

For instance, people differentiate and choose shoes made by companies as represented by their logos such as a big check, three striped leaves, or letter F. These same people also choose products from food companies with logos of a double arch, a happy insect, or a smiling young female.

Here are some numbers showing the degree of IPR protection of selected East Asian economies. (Data and report sources are (1) Property Rights Alliance (PRA)- International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2017 Report, (2) US Chamber of Commerce (USCC)- Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), International IP Index (IIPI) 2018, and (3) World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2017-2018. The numbers in parenthesis beside each report represent the number of countries or economies covered. The WEF’s GCR is composed of 12 pillars and pillar #1 is about Institutions; among the sub-pillars there is IPR protection).

IPRProtectionIndex_041918

These numbers show that East Asian tiger economies also rank high in IPR protection. Conversely, emerging economies aspiring to join the club of tiger and developed countries tend to have medium to low ranking in IPR protection. The exception is Brunei, a developed economy in terms of per capita income (thanks to its high gas exports and small population) but it is low in IPR protection.

The issue of IPR protection in the region was tackled by a symposium early this week entitled “Intellectual Property Rights in the ASEAN Economic Community: Challenges and Potentials” at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event was organized by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Malaysia’s first and most dynamic free market think tank.

There are moves to abolish the trademark, corporate logos and branding of products deemed “unhealthy” in many countries.

For instance, plain packaging of tobacco products has been legislated in Australia and France, and is currently considered to be legislated in Singapore too. Such trademark busting policies are also considered as extended to other “unhealthy” products like alcohol, sugary food like chocolates, confectionery and candies.

IDEAS commissioned a study that was presented in the symposium entitled “Challenges in Improving Intellectual Property Rights in ASEAN: Case study of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines” by Adidarmawan, S.H. and Marolita Setiati.

In the paper, the two authors noted that:

“Trademark promotes freedom of choice and enable consumers to make quick, confident and safe purchasing decisions. Standardizing… packaging for tobacco products that would restrict the use of brands, trademarks and trade… concern is if brand marks are eroded, then consumers are not able to differentiate between inferior products and those with a reputation for reliability that may create an environment in which companies may end up competing on price instead of quality. In addition, plain packaging is easier for counterfeiters to copy and could result in an increase in inferior — and more dangerous — imitations. The counterfeiters will have an easier time duping the consumer into buying products that are sub-standard. Brand restriction sets an unfortunate precedent, opening the door for IP rights to be weakened in other industries.”

A BusinessWorld report early this week entitled “Excise tax increase triggers widespread cigarette smuggling” also underscores these concerns.

High taxes, rising regulations and plain packaging have similar effects — they make the consumption of legal and branded products like tobacco and alcohol more restricted and more costly, which open up more space and markets for illicit, illegal, smuggled, and cheaper products. This results in more smoking, more drinking, more consumption of the restricted products.

Governments should focus on protecting private property rights, both physical and intellectual. Weakening such property rights will also lead to a weakened state and strengthen the powers of smugglers and criminal syndicates who do not pay taxes and do not respect brands and intellectual property.

 

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is President of Minimal Government Thinkers, a member-institute of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

IPR in the ASEAN and plain packaging in the West

* This is my column in BusinessWorld on March 27, 2018.

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Last week, March 22, a global coalition of 62 market-oriented independent or nongovernment think tanks and institutes sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) on the subject, “Five years of failure: Global coalition letter against plain packaging.” Three institutes from ASEAN countries were among the signatories: the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) in Jakarta, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in Kuala Lumpur, and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT) in Manila, my think tank.

The statement was circulated well in social media particularly by signatory-institutes. The paper noted,

“After Australia implemented the policy, other industries have been targeted around the world: alcohol, sugary beverages, fatty foods, even toys. These industries employ millions and any regulation that would deny key IP assets would have a devastating global economic impact. The trademark value alone of only twelve companies associated with these sectors is estimated to be more than $1.8 trillion.

The costs of plain packaging are enormous: the loss of the innovation incentive, the mutilation of established international IP law, the market carve-out to illicit actors, including terrorists. We urge the WHO and governments around the world to stop infringing on intellectual property rights with plain packaging policies.”

This coming April 18, IDEAS will hold a public forum on “Intellectual Property Rights in the ASEAN Economic Community: Challenges and Potentials” to be held at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur. The forum will partly cover an emerging big issue in international trade — the proliferation of illicit products.

The proliferation of illicit trade and smuggling is ironic in a period of overall tariff reduction and trade liberalization in the ASEAN and many other regions in the world.

What explains this irony?

It is non-tariff barriers (NTBs) or non-tariff measures (NTMs). After all, these require additional permits, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), and technical barriers to trade (TBTs).

And, as mentioned in the letter, the emerging attack on IPR — plain packaging, abolition of trademark and logo, abolition of corporate branding, initially for tobacco products. Then advocates will move to other “unhealthy” goods like alcohol, sugary drinks, confectionery and candies, and so on.

Australia is the first country in the world to legislate and implement plain packaging or standardized packaging in December 2012. The estimated consumption of illicit and smuggled tobacco products was 12.2% of overall tobacco consumption in 2011 and 11.5% in 2012.

When plain packaging was implemented, the estimated illicit consumption went up: 13.5% in 2013, 14.5% in 2014, 14.1% in 2015, 13.9% in 2016 (source: KPMG, March 2017. “Illicit Tobacco in Australia, 2016 Full Year Report”).

Removing the trademark, logo and brand via plain packaging is less of an assault on tobacco companies with long years of corporate existence but more of an assault on a country’s tradition of protecting private property rights.

Below are some numbers showing average wealth and IPR protection in 15 economies, ASEAN + five in Northeast Asia. Data sources are (a) IMF’s World Economic Outlook (WEO) for GDP per capita, (b) Property Rights Alliance (PRA) International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2017 Report, and (c) World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2017-2018.

The GCR is composed of 12 pillars and pillar #1 is about Institutions; among the sub-pillars there is IPR protection (see table).

IPRI_032718
These numbers show that countries with high per capita GDP whether in current or nominal prices or in purchasing power parity (PPP) values are also those with high scores and global ranking in intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. And countries with low per capita income also have low scores and ranking in IPR protection. The exception to this trend is Brunei in the IPRI Report, and South Korea in the GCR.

High and rising taxes and now plain packaging as measures to discourage smoking is successful only in reducing smoking of legal and branded tobacco products. Not mentioned by advocates is that these measures are highly favorable to producers and distributors of illicit, fake, non-branded, and cheap tobacco products.

Since brand and product differentiation is effectively abolished, producers and manufacturers, old and new players, will only compete in pricing. So more cheap tobacco will be introduced and this will encourage more smoking.

To further reduce smoking incidence, governments and NGOs should continue public education about the dangers of smoking. But almost all smokers already know the dangers of smoking, the same way that cliff and plane jumpers, high wall/rock climbers, motorcycle stunt drivers, extreme bicycle downhill riders, deep sea scuba divers, MMA/UFC fighters, etc. know the dangers of their sports and passion but they keep doing it anyway, repeatedly.

People own their body, not governments or health NGOs. There is a limit to state nannyism and very often, such nannyism results in adverse, unintended consequences.

Governments should instead focus on protecting private property as a way to encourage more economic prosperity.

Coalition letter to WHO re plain packaging

Today, a global coalition of 62 market-oriented independent or non-government think tanks and institutes sent a letter to the WHO. Three institutes from ASEAN countries were among the signatories — CIPS in Indonesia, IDEAS in Malaysia, and MGT in the Philippines.

Cover page re PP
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General
World Health Organization

December 01, 2017, marked the five-year anniversary of the full implementation of plain packaging in Australia. The removal of brands and trademarks from packaging remains a gross violation of intellectual property rights and has failed to achieve its intended goal. As a global coalition of sixty-two think tanks, advocacy groups and civil-society organizations that have been critical of plain packaging for any product, we write in response to proposed plain packaging tobacco control measures and to the announcements by several countries of their interest in pursuing these policies.

Intellectual property rights are human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 17, the right to ownership; Article 19, the right to freedom of expression; and Article 27, the right to protection of material interests. In this regard, even if plain packaging is effective, it should still be repealed, as rights are inalienable and should not be discarded for political purposes.

International trade law, the UNDHR, and historic international treaties are designed to protect intellectual property for this very purpose. The innovation incentive created by trademarks fuels competition and produces amazing products demanded by consumers like affordable medical advances that save lives. Obviously, any loophole should be closed, not exploited….

After Australia implemented the policy, other industries have been targeted around the world: alcohol, sugary beverages, fatty foods, even toys. These industries employ millions and any regulation that would deny key IP assets would have a devastating global economic impact. The trademark value alone of only twelve companies associated with these sectors is estimated to be more than $1.8 trillion.

The costs of plain packaging are enormous: the loss of the innovation incentive to the economy and society are inestimable, the mutilation of established international IP law is unprecedented, and the market carve-out to illicit actors, including terrorists, is reprehensible. It is beyond reason that such a policy continues to be pursued, even after it has failed to achieve its intended goal.

We urge the WHO and governments around the world to stop infringing on intellectual property rights with plain packaging policies.

(Full letter and names of institute heads, co-signatories, see:
http://www.propertyrightsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018-Global-Plain-Packaging-Coalition-to-WHO.pdf, or
https://www.slideshare.net/Noysky/global-coalition-letter-to-who-vs-plain-packaging)

On plain packaging, from For free choice

Short but direct arguments, I like this article, reposting.

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The failure of the plain package
http://www.forfreechoice.org/freedomofchoice/the-failure-of-the-plain-package/

The Australian plain packaging legislation was implemented in December 2012. Since then, trademarks, logos, non-prescribed colors and graphics have been removed from packs. But 5 years later, there is no evidence that plain packaging has achieved (or is likely to achieve) any public health benefits.

The Australian plain packaging legislation was implemented in December 2012. Since then, branding on tobacco packaging has been banned. Trademarks, logos, non-prescribed colors and graphics have been removed from packs, and only the use of a brand name in a prescribed font and size is allowed.

The tobacco control lobby claims that plain packaging is likely to lead to improvements in public health at no cost to anyone but the tobacco industry. But:

  • There is no evidence that plain packaging has achieved (or is likely to achieve) any public health benefits;
  • It is disproportionate, unjustified and unnecessary;
  • It has widespread negative consequences; and
  • It risks breaching legal rights as protected by various laws and treaties.

Consumers do not choose to smoke based on branded cigarette packaging, but consumers do use branding to identify differences between products, including between legal and illegal brands.

Does plain packaging work? It doesn’t.

The Australian government collects data on national smoking behaviour every three years as part of its National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). The most recent batch of data is from 2016, and reports no statistically significant decline in the overall daily smoking rate between 2013 (12.8%) and 2016 (12.2%). This is the first instance of no decline in 23 years. How can plain packaging be said to work when the smoking rate has not declined following its introduction?

The market share of illegal tobacco increased by nearly 30% within the first two years of plain packaging being implemented in Australia in 2012. Today, the market share of illegal tobacco remains over 20% higher than pre-2012, representing 13.9% of tobacco consumed in Australia and representing approximately $1.6 billion AUD in lost tax revenue to the Australian Government according to the KPMG Report – Illicit Tobacco in Australia – Full Year 2016.

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A government that regulates tobacco appropriately – implementing evidence-based laws that benefit public health while allowing legal industries to compete fairly – protects both the health of its citizens and of its economy. Branding protects our legal economy and tax revenues from criminals.

Plain packaging prevents consumers from differentiating between legal and illegal products, which results in a sharp increase in illegal tobacco and a sharp decline in tax revenues.

Globally, illicit tobacco deprives governments of $40 billion per year.

If Governments are serious about reducing tobacco consumption then it is time to consider alternative evidenced-based measures available to achieve the same public policy objectives, which are less restrictive, more targeted and proportionate.

Tobacco taxation, trademarks and plain packaging

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last November 30, 2017.

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Protection of private property rights — including physical and intellectual — is an important cornerstone of a free society. People can exclusively use, keep, sell, donate or give away their property if they want to.

There is a measurement of property rights protection worldwide being done annually by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), a Washington DC-based think tank. It produces the annual International Property Rights Index report and partners with independent, nongovernment, and market-oriented think tanks and institutes from many countries. IPRI covers three major areas: (1) Legal and Political Environment, (2) Physical Property Rights (PPR), and (3) Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that include protection of patents, trademarks and brands, copyrights and trade secrets.

In the IPR of several ASEAN countries, the gap is not very wide between say, Singapore and the Philippines or Indonesia (see table).

IPRScores_113017

Currently, there are IPR issues that are intertwined with taxation issues of some “sin products” like tobacco and alcohol.

In the Philippines, the sin tax law of 2012 or RA 10351 is turning five years old next month. The law has dual purposes of (a) reducing smoking and drinking incidence in the country by raising tobacco and alcohol taxes, and (b) raising more government revenues.

So far, both have been achieved but there are moves and legislative bills to further raise tobacco tax to twice or thrice their current rates.

In December 2012, Australia introduced a variant of this law aimed to further discourage smoking. Its plain packaging law required tobacco companies to remove the brand, trademark, and logos of its tobacco products and replace them with plain packs with graphic warnings.

Since some smokers may be unable to distinguish good brands from new and/or inferior brands, they are supposedly discouraged from stop smoking.

While the goal is good — to protect public health — the means and the policy leaves much to be desired.

Since it is assumed that consumers can no longer distinguish good brands from inferior ones, brand competition is precluded.

As a result, companies will now be forced to compete on the basis of prices alone, allowing players with poor but cheap products to gain advantage and attract more customers.

Which may then defeat the purpose of anti-tobacco initiatives because this may yet increase the incident of smoking.

Five years after introducing its plain packaging scheme, has Australia been able to meet its goal?

The Australian government collects data on national smoking incidence every three years as part of its National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).

Based on 2016 data — its most recent — there has been no statistically significant decline in the overall daily smoking rate between 2013 (12.8%) and 2016 (12.2%).

So the plain packaging scheme is a failure in Australia.

Moreover, the plain packaging law has unwittingly succeeded in raising the consumption of illegal tobacco, estimated at 13.9% of total consumption in 2016. This results in an estimated excise tax loss of A$1.6 billion for the government last year.

Furthermore, Australia is also facing a dispute resolution panel at the WTO for implementing the law that disrespects IPR laws on trademark and branding.

France and the UK have also introduced the plain packaging scheme in recent years. One unintended result in France is the rise in illicit tobacco coming from some terrorist groups and criminal syndicates while the French government suffered an excise tax loss of approximately €2 billion in 2016. This illicit trade was linked to jihadists traveling to Syria and Iraq and terrorist attacks in France. Counterfeit cigarettes are also among the most investigated IP-crime in the UK and are linked directly to criminal organizations.

In Asia, there are plans to introduce plain packaging legislation in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

This may a dangerous precedent.

Soon, other “sin products” will be targeted — alcohol, sugary drinks and beverages, fatty foods, even toys.

I am a non-smoker and have never been a fan of smoking. I am just a fan of individual liberty and people having the freedom what to do with their own body and life, also a fan of the rule of law and people’s right to private property.

The plain packaging scheme is dangerous because (a) it disrespects private property rights and IPR laws, (b) encourages the production of illicit items from illicit and possibly criminal players who can easily play with price competition, (c) it encourages more consumption because very cheap products with no brands are more easily available, and (d) it reduces government potential excise tax revenues, which might result in creating new taxes elsewhere.

Property rights, trademarks and consumer protection

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last September 18, 2017.

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Private property rights that people and businesses enjoy are among the cornerstones of a free and dynamic society. People have exclusive rights on what to do with their private properties — use them, sell, rent out, or donate.

However, when rights to private property — both physical and intangible assets — are unprotected, society can quickly degenerate into disorder. As a result, consumers will be unable to recognize which among manufacturers and service providers are trustworthy and which are suspicious.

Measuring the extent of property rights protection across many countries is done annually by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), a Washington DC-based think tank. It produces the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) annually and partners with independent, nongovernment, and market-oriented think tanks and institutes from many countries.

IPRI is derived by getting the score (1 to 10, 10 being the highest) of each country covered in three major areas:

  1. Legal and Political Environment (LP), covers judicial independence, rule of law, control of corruption, and political stability of a country or economy.
  2. Physical Property Rights (PPR), includes registration and protection of physical properties, access to loans.
  3. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), includes protection of patents, trademarks and brand, and copyrights.

Countries with high scores in two or all three of these areas will have a high IPRI overall score and global rank (see table).

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Among the important insights in the above numbers are: One, the more developed the economies are like Singapore and Japan, the higher the IPRI score and global rank. Which implies that as private property is better recognized and protected, there are more economic activities and innovations that occur.

Two, the Philippines experienced some improvement in its global rank, from 77th out of 131 countries in the 2013 report. It rose to 64 out of 127 countries in 2017. Its low score in legal and political environment was compensated by its high score in physical property rights.

One emerging issue in IPR non-protection is plain packaging (PP) of tobacco products purportedly for health reasons. Besides being slapped with high taxes, tobacco products also feature graphic warnings on packaging. Advertising tobacco products have also been restricted and smoking in may areas have been disallowed, which are part of several moves to deter people from lighting up.

These have been tried in many countries but smoking incidence does not seem to significantly decline as people shift to cheaper and often, illegal, illicit products. So the next step is to prohibit the use of a tobacco brand, logo, or trademark. This has been done in Australia and there are plans to introduce legislation in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.

This plan does not appear to be right because a brand or logo of a company represents how effective it is in developing consumer loyalty and service. Imagine also if all ice cream, all soft drinks, all beer, all wine, etc. will simply be labeled as “ice cream,” “soda,” “beer,” etc. with no brand recognition of who produced or manufactured the products.

Or all government departments and agencies (DoH, DoF, DPWH, NEDA, etc.) will lose their logo and will simply have a generic brand “Philippine government,” it would not seem right.

I have never been a smoker nor have I been a fan of smoking but was once a fan of tobacco ads in cycling or in the F1 race. But I will not recommend the scrapping of a brand or trademark of companies in a particular industry. People who hate the companies should attack them as such and they may even use the company brand for their attacks.

Intellectual property rights like medicine patents, song copyrights, company brand or trademarks, play an important role of recognizing efficiency and innovation. Consumers look up to these brands and decide which ones to support and patronize and which ones to reject based on their specific needs and interests.

Governments therefore, should respect and protect these IPRs the same way it should respect and protect physical private properties. Moreover, people own their bodies and not the state nor NGOs.

After rising taxes, health warnings, and business regulations are in place, governments should leave individuals and allow them to seek their own happiness without harming other people.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers, which is a member of EFN Asia and the Property Rights Alliance (PRA).