Mighty Corp, a wholly Filipino manufacturer of tobacco in the country, helped rebuild churches in Bohol and Cebu thru their humanitarian arm, Wong Chu King Foundation.

The said foundation is known for their good deeds towards the needy and other charitable acts. As the foundation and Mighty vowed to rebuild churches in the Visayas region. The historical churches in Bohol and Cebu were severely damaged during the earthquake last year.

According to executive vice president and official spokesperson of Mighty Corp, retired Judge Oscar P. Barrientos said that the destruction of churches during the quake in Bohol and Cebu has prompted Mighty Corp to continue with its mission to strengthen the Filipino faith.

“The recent calamities that hit the country last year only strengthened the Filipino faith. Mighty Corp. will continue to build churches that Filipinos go to in their times of great trials.” he said.

Other church officials in the country expressed support done by Mighty for clearing its name amidst of the malicious news about the company.


Mighty, a family-owned business, is now the largest independent tobacco manufacturer in the Philippines Mighty Tobacco Corporation, the owners of the most quintessentially Filipino cigarette brand La Campana, is celebrated its 65th anniversary on September 20, 2010.

Mighty, a family-owned business, is now the largest independent tobacco manufacturer in the Philippines after Philip Morris/Fortune Tobacco merger earlier this year.

It is also the oldest cigarette manufacturing concern in the country. Mighty’s product range is well known to Filipinos.

Its brand portfolio includes American-style cigarettes such as Blue Seal Special, Mighty Filter Kings, Mighty Menthol 100’s, LA Menthol 100’s, LA Lights Menthol 100’s, Marvels Menthol 100’s, Marvels Filter Kings, Right Menthol 100’s and Right Filter Kings.

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In addition, Mighty specializes in matamis and regaliz, two categories of Filipino-style ‘cigar-type’ cigarettes, a blend of dark, air-cured Philippine tobaccos principally sourced from the Cagayan and Isabela provinces where the stronger flavor tobacco is harvested.

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Matamis are wrapped in ‘sweetened’ white cigarette paper and are sold under the following brands: La Campana Matamis, Campanilla Matamis, Magkaibigan Matamis, Cortas La Campana, Rosalina Matamis and Corona Matamis.

 

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Two other cigars in white unsweetend paper are sold under the brand names Magkaibigan Blanco and Albambra Blanco. Regaliz on the other hand are wrapped in dark brown (commonly referred to as black) sweetened paper imported from France and are 120mm long.Mighty-464

Middle-aged women in the provinces are the common smokers of this type of cigarette, which are often smoked with the lighted part inside the mouth of the smoker. Mighty brands in this category include: La Campana Largos, Ms. Philippines Fat, Ms. Philippines Thin, La Flor de Filipinas Fat, La flor de Filipinas Thin, Marka Niyog Fat, Marka Niyog Thin, Malaya Largos, La Dicha, and La Flor de Luzon.

Cigar-blended cigarettes are hand-packed by women factory workers called Kahistas and presented in packs of 30 sticks per pack. The packaging process is done manually with a scoop of hand by these trained Kahistas who used their hand as mold to bundle 30 sticks at a time and then package them in a fiv-angled pack in a swift and continuous motion.

According to Mighty, the 30-stick package is characteristic of the cigar cigarettes such that this phase of the manufacturing cannot by mechanized because if the contents are reduced to 20 sticks in order to facilitate mechanization of the process, the captive market would be misled into thinking that the products are no longer cigar flavored cigarettes but the milder tasting American blends.

With its rich history serving Filipino smokers, Mighty’s first 65 years have positioned it as a major player in the domestic market, particularly in the province where its iconic and economical brands continue to perform strongly. But the Philippines is a dynamic market, and recent events, particularly the merger of Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco, have created new challenges for Mighty.

“Yes, the merger presents a challenge for us but also an opportunity.” Said Mighty’s Michael Chua told Tobacco Asia. “We are now on the second largest cigarette manufacturer in the Philippines and the country’s only privately owned tobacco company.”

Cigar-blended cigarettes are hand-packed by women factory workers called Kahistas. The Philippines is a majority single stick market, particularly in rural provinces where the local economy remains challenging. Exports Mighty has already expanded into exports and contract manufacturing, and these sectors are proving profitable for the company.

“We are continuously expanding our exports, reaching countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan,” Chua said. “Contract manufacturing is also key component of Mighty’s strategy. Lately we have added contract manufacturing of the Independent Tobacco Company of Dubai’s Business Royal brand.”

Other brands Mighty has entered into contract manufacturing arrangements with include Break cigarettes which it manufactures on behalf of the Singaporean brand owner. “Most contract manufacturing clients are distributors,“ Chua clarified, adding that “As a consequence of ongoing integration and consolidation among manufacturers, distributors look for competent contract manufacturers and develop their own brand.

This appears to be a regional if not a worldwide trend. Our customers realize that Mighty can produce products to international standards, and we present ourselves as a company that can offer a competitive price as well as a quality product.

These factors gives distributors a good incentive to invest with Mighty.” One advantage Mighty has over its competitors is its lower operating costs. “Our cost of production is considerably lower than many other companies, and taxation based on production costs is lower, which provides an added advantage” according to Chua.

When approached by a potential contract manufacturing customers seeking to develop its own brand, Mighty will typically develop the blend based on the target market and specifications, provide samples and once the product specifications are approved and the price is accepted, starts production. In keeping with local and regional trends towards a preference for lower tar and nicotine products, Mighty produces a range of lower tar products.

“The lowest tar product we produce currently is 3mg,” Chua said. “We supply Taiwan and Singapore with 3mg, 5mg, 7mg and 9mg cigarettes. We achieve these specifications through a variety of measures including the use of expanded leaf and this tobacco perforations.Over the last few years, the Philippine tobacco crop has significantly improved

Domestic market.

However, the domestic market remains the core focus for Mighty Corporation. “Domestic brands remain a strong part of the Mighty portfolio,” Chua told us “Mighty brands in the domestic market are still the most important facet of our business,” Chua said.

Aside from Philippine tobacco, Mighty imports leaf from Brazil, China and the US as well as a limited quantity of high quality FCV from Croatia.

Most of the flavor components in its cigarettes are sourced from international suppliers. Mighty utilizes Hauni Protos makers, GD packer, and Molins hard pack hinge lid machines. Filter now is supplied by Celanese and Rhodia, plug wrap from Tann and PDM.

The Philippines is a majority single stick market, particularly in rural provinces where the local economy remains challenging for many consumers. It is still common to see Takatak cigarette vendors, usually young men, in crowded market places and streets selling individual cigarettes from a wooden display box with a small compartment for the money collected that is covered with a sliding door.

They attract potential buyers by vigorously sliding the door into the wooden surround repeatedly, creating the takatak noise from which they gain the title. Tobacco has been an economic mainstay of the Philippines for centuries, and despite growing pressure from the anti-smoking lobby , tobacco production remains an important commodity.

Tobacco leaf, cigarettes, and for that matter cigars were introduced by Spanish colonists, and Mighty’s portfolio reflects the types and varieties of smoking products that have been available in the Philippines since the Spanish era, including dark aired cured and other native tobaccos used in traditional cigarettes as Mighty’s leading brand La Campana.

Mighty sources in leaf from Universal Leaf Philippines, Continental and Trans Manila, and from a handful of contract farmers cultivating around 100ha of land. “Over the last few years, the Philippine tobacco crop has significantly improved particularly flue cured and burley,”Chua told us. “Philippine tobacco has become very competitive globally.

Tax facts

Philippine legislators tend to look at tobacco as a cash cow for the often struggling economy, and taxes raised from tobacco and tobacco products continue to be an important mainstay. Taxes on cigarettes in the Philippines are relatively low compared to its Asian neighbours, but pressure from FCTC-inspired anti-smoking groups and Bloomberg Foundation funded lobbyists continues to stimulate an upward trend in excise.

The next increase in the multi-tiered (four level) tax structure is likely to be introduced in January, 2011. Smoking bans are being implemented, and even enforced, in more areas throughout the country, usually at the discretion of the local government authorities, but to date this has not caused too many issues for Mighty.

“Smoking bans have not affected Mighty particularly as most of its products are sold in rural areas where smoking bans are largely irrelevant because there are not so many public buildings,” according to Chua. Mighty’s first 65 years have seen it grow into an iconic, 100% family-owned cigarette manufacturer.

The company’s owners, the Wongchuking family, are looking forward to the next 65 years with a sense of pride and history and recognize the responsibility owed to their employees and their customers alike. Exports will no doubt continue to be an important growth area for Mighty, but it is the intriguing, unique and dynamic domestic market of the Philippines will continue to be the main focus for the Philippine’s second largest and oldest cigarette manufacturing company.


Mighty Corp, a distinctive tobacco manufacturer in the Philippines was accused of technical smuggling and not paying the right taxes. The company has become a major player in the industry. Several months ago, they were involved in technical smuggling perpetuated by under pricing imported tobacco leaf to an estimated extent of 85 per cent.

Mighty Corporation imported cheap tobacco leaf for their low-end cigarettes. But the Bureau of Customs suspended last month the license of Mighty to operate a bonded warehouse, MC’s operation didn’t affected.

The allegations started when the competitor wondering over the results of a market survey made by A.C. Nielsen that Mighty might be covering the P4 loss per pack. When the smear campaign against them broke out last October, from the “case” in the U.S. soil to the low-priced that Mighty are selling in the market. Mighty makes fat profits selling at a loss considering that about 60 per cent of its production volume is not taxed.

According to BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares said that she is not questioning over the Wongchuking company’s operation as it pays the correct tax.

The National Tobacco Administration said that Mighty pays only 10 per cent of the average price of local leaf.How they can say that Mighty Corp did the malicious allegation? What are they want to prove?

In the data from the Department of Finance’s website, it shows that Mighty imported 26,876,186 kilos of Virginia type tobacco and paid P36.46 per kilo. Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco paid P216.33 to the kilo.  Meanwhile, Philip Morris Philippines paid P249.36, according to the data from the website of the DOF.

Mighty paid less than half at only P81.70 for burley. PMFTC imported burley at an average price of P163.63 per kilo; Philip Morris Philippines, P233.34; La Suerte, former licensee of Philip Morris, paid P180.12.

Then, the company paid P26.23 per kilo for imported tobacco stems which had an average price of P60.74 per kilo. PMFTC paid P57.91, Philip Morris, P102.94 and La Suere, P52.15 to the kilo.

 


With the initiative of wholly owned Filipino manufacturer in the country, Mighty Corp will donate tobacco dust.

It was implemented by the National Tobacco Administration and the said procedure is an alternative increase growth of an algae, lablab and natural fish food which serves as fish pond floor conditioner.

“By doing so, we are helping both tobacco farmers and fish pond owners and operators increase their yield,” Oscar P. Barrientos, Executive Vice President of Mighty Corp said about the plan.

What are the procedures? A plant located in Sto. Tomas, La Union which manufactures Tobacco Dust Plus (TDP). The leaves are re-dried and pulverized. During the process, the dust from the leaves fall off in which creates tobacco dust.

This is a good news for the fish pond owners and operators. They can use this alternative procedure by sterilizing their ponds of snails and other fish pond predators.

The said study led by the team from Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (Seafdec) in Tigbauan, Iloilo under the tutelage of Dr. Joebert D. Toledo and with the partnership of Iloilo School of Fisheries, Philippine Council for Aquaculture and Marine Resources Research and Development and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Farmers based in Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur became interested from using this remarkable procedure.

Barrientos also said that Mighty Corp aims to increase the income of the tobacco-growing industry by buying 10 million tobacco leaves from local farmers all over the country. The green price for that volume of purchase amounts to P700,000.

“We will be happy to offer better prices to tobacco farmers and are willing to tie-up with the Department of Agriculture and NTA to cement our partnership with the farmers,” he said.

 


Filipino-owned cigarette manufacturer, Mighty Corp extends help to the farmers in the Pangasinan and Ilocos region. The company assures its market for the entire year of 2014, as they invested it to the mentioned area wherein the workers and their families gained income from it. Instead of exporting products companies like MC, they invested their income to the local market.

According to Mario Cabasal, president of the National Federation of Tobacco Growers and Cooperatives (NFTGC), said that when they found out Mighty’s initiative, they were delighted over its plan. The company will buy at least 10 million kilograms of tobacco leaves at an average price of P70 per kilo. And the excess t*bacco leaves that farmers could not sell to other buyers. Kudos to MC by doing this remarkable thing for the sake of our economy.

“We limited to minimum areas fields planted to tobacco last year in anticipation of depressed demand due to the scheduled implementation of the sin tax,” Cabasal said. “Good thing, some farmers were able to sell part of their low-grade harvests to Mighty Corporation in 2013,” he added. Imagine the price of cigar leaves in other countries than investing in our country. They can save up a lot of money and they can divert it to their CSR projects in the country.

Frequent smokers feared of high price of cigarettes in the country that would resulted of the implemented new sin tax law. A lot of farmers in the Ilocos region shifted planting yellow corn while it thrives during the summer season. Though corn products profitable than t*bacc0, they decided to reallocate their earnings to the cigar industry. “Now that we are assured of an alternative market, besides other tobacco companies, our members will again be inspired to devote larger areas to the cultivation of Ilocandia’s most important cash crop,” Cabasal added.

And for the past few months, the controversies that Mighty Corp revealed by the traditional media and it was mere “trial by publicity”. MC always think first our countrymen who need their utmost help. Instead of thinking of making millions in the t*bacc0 industry, they reached out to the farmers in the North by this kind of generating incomes outside of the Metro. They also have other livelihood projects that focus on the education of the farmers’ children and other missions in the near future. I salute the people behind this, as they developed new techniques in other parts of the country.

“With Mighty’s assurance that the company will buy all the unsold tobacco harvested by farmers, we can also be sure that unlike in the past, prices will stay high even after the holiday season. Price cut downs on harvests after the Holy Week was an old practice of middlemen from Ilocos Norte to Pangasinan”, he explained. Kudos to Wongchuking-owned company. Hoping that other companies will pursue this idea and to be able to help our kababayans who are in dire of financial help.


The Bell of the Cash Register Keeps Ringing for This Veteran Cigaret-Maker

by Minette Z. Lee
September 1979/OUTLOOK

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How a Young Chinese Immigrant Rolled Tobaccos by Hand, Peddled Them at the Street Corner, and Succeeded in Making His Hole-In-The-Wall Enterprise a Top Philippine Corporation Today

You’ve come a long way, baby!” Incongrous as it may seem, this congratulatory refrain of an American cigaret commercial which celebrates smoking as a part of Women’s Lib, just as aptly applies to a smiling, sixty-six year old grandfather named Wong Chu King, and to the company he founded, La Campana Fabrica de Tobacos, Inc.

La Campana is a P35 million company that produces and markets native or unfiltered cigarets filled with Philippine grown black tobacco. It ranks second in terms of sales in the highly competitive native cigarette industry and since 1975 has consistently made it to the list of the top 1,000 Philippine corporations.

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When King entered the cigarette manufacturing business 35 years ago, it was hardly with a bang. His was a small, hole-in-the-wall enterprise started more out of the need to eke out a living during the lean years of the Japanese Occupation rather than out of any ambition of making it big. During those uncertain times, this scrappy thirty-one-year-old immigrant from Amoy, China, with four assistants, bought tobacco from dealers, rolled them by hand and peddled them at street corners in Divisoria. Come liberation, it was just a matter of continuing a good thing and King set up shop at Calle Tayabas, near Blumentritt, Manila. Thus, with other local cigarette factories either destroyed or still undergoing reconstruction, La Campana was born.

Today, the three-lined La Campana factory at Sultana Street, Makati, occupies a two-hectare lot beside the sluggish Pasig River. The factory employs 365 workers and produces eight brands of native cigarets which go by such mellifluous names as La Campana Matamis, Magkaibigan, Campanero, Campanilla, Cortos La Campana, Magkaibigan Regaliz, La Flor de Luzon Largos, and La Campana Largos. The last three brands are of cigarets wrapped with black cigarette paper.

Spanish Roots

The Hispanic names of the company and its cigaret brands are not semantic accidents but rather are evidence of the Spanish roots of the Philippine tobacco, cigar and cigaret industry. Indeed, it appears that the world owes the discovery and popularization (but not the invention) of smoking to Spanish explorers and sailors. It is said that one of the strange sights observed by Christopher Columbus’ first expedition to the new world were of natives non-chalantly smoking cigars in the island of Cuba. Cigaret smoking was discovered later, in the West Indies and Mexico. The natives of the West Indies wrapped the tobacco they smoked with thin palm bark while those of Mexico used corn husks. The Spaniards substituted paper for the corn husk, an innovation which greatly abetted the spread of cigaret smoking in Southern Europe in the early nineteenth century. The Spaniards established tobacco culture, and later cigaret manufacturing in the Philippines, and for many years dominated the trade in the world.

La Campana’s traditional touch does not stop with the name. Even the packaging of the cigaret harkens back to the later years of the Spanish Era. Jose Riñosa, the general manager of La Campana, points out that native cigarets are distinctive because they have have a very strong taste. They are favored partly by the older people in the provinces who look upon the weaker Virginia cigarets as another sign of the lack of spunk of the modern generation.

“If we pack our cigarets the same way as the Virginia cigarets (20 sticks in a hard, square pack), our customers will think that the cigarets taste like Virginia cigarets and they will not buy it.” Thus, the native cigarets are packaged thirty sticks to a pack, and the pack is soft and five-sided and decorated with drawings in the style of the komiks (local comic books) of the fifties.

It is because of the distinctive type of packaging of the native cigaret that the manufacturing process cannot be fully mechanized. Despite this, the factory’s production is high speed and continuous. The factory’s average production is 200,000 packs or 60,000 cigaret sticks a day.

Production Process

2When the tobacco is brought to La Campana’s airy factory, the bales of 115 kilos each are placed in vacuum chambers where moisture is added to prevent crumbling and to render the tobacco soft and pliable for stripping out the midrib or leaf stem and removing any foreign material or dust. This process also kills off tobacco beatles and other insects in the leaves. Then the different kinds of tobacco are mixed in the blending machine. The tobacco, which comes from Isabela, La Union, Negros and Iloilo, are hand fed to a conveyor belt that carries it to a casing machine. In the casing machine, the tobacco is sprayed with preservatives and dipped in the flavoring syrups or sauces according to La Campana’s particular formula. Then, this blended tobacco is heaped into mandalas, or square piles approximately eight by twelve by eighteen feet, to mull for three days. Riñosa explains that this three-day wait is to allow the natural flavor of the tobacco to emerge. After the three days, the fermented tobacco is cut into shreds 4/10 to ¾ millimeter wide and carried to another cylindrical chamber where the tobacco is dried to the proper moisture content. This is critical because if the tobacco is too wet or too dry, it will not handle properly in the cigarette forming machine.

The tobacco is manually fed into the cigarette making machine. La Campana has 24 such machines whish turn out 1,000 sticks per minute. All in all, this manufacturing process is done with 185 workers. The other 180 workers which the factory employs pack the cigarets.

“No More No Less”

The packaging of the cigarets is done by women  who are seated in rows two-deep and who each turn out an astonishing 1,000 packs in eight hours. With the paper held ready by four fingers of the right hand, and a dab of paste on the index finger, the women scoop with their left hand thirty sticks from the stacks of cigarets in front of them and, in a series of deft motions done with a speed which gives the illusion of a single continues motion, bundle the sticks into a soft, five-angled package.

“ They don’t count, their fingers act as a mold. But,” challenges Riñosa, “open any pack and you will find thirty cigarette sticks. No more, no less.”

Wong Chu King is now chairman of the board of La Campana, but he still goes to the factory daily to see how things are getting along. Invariably dressed in a cotton shirt and khaki pants, King in his office at La Campana gives the impression of a kindly head of a large clan graciously welcoming one into his home. For La Campana is still very much a family corporation. King has nurtured La Campana to success as he might have his own child. With annual sales amounting to P21 million for a product that sells at P.50. retail, the child has indeed come a long way.

 


Despite of the controversial issues against Filipino-owned cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corporation about their low priced products, and alleged court case in the United States, the said company vows to help around three million farmers and its beneficiaries in the Ilocos region and Cagayan Valley.

As its company’s increase its production during 2012 up to 2013 which rise up to 20 percent of its local market, they had a long-term plan to recover its market share and reach out hundreds of thousands of tob*cco leaf growers’ workers.

According to Mighty Corporation Executive Vice President and spokesperson Oscar P. Barrientos, he said that the company expanded its CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects which includes putting up irrigation pumps, and provide mini tractors in the mentioned areas. And for the farmers’ dependents, they will give them scholarship grants.

Aside from the fair share that the company gave to the farmers and its dependents, they also contributed the development by paying excise tax and employed more than 2,000 factory workers.

With its economic instability of our country, they vowed to help workers and their families that will gained the growth of the company. With the expansion of their CSR projects can also benefits a lot of people, not just their farmers and its families but also for those who are in need of financial help.