Wine monopoly district
The monopoly of native wine comprehends the whole of the Island of Luzon, excepting the Provinces of Cagayan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Camarines and Albay, and is under the direction of three administrators, who act independently of each other in their respective districts, and have at their disposal a competent number of guards. These administrators receive in the licensed establishments the coco and nipa wines, at prices stipulated by the growers. That of the coco is paid for at the rate of two dollars per jar, containing twenty gantas, equal to twelve arrobas, seven azumbres and half a cuartillo, Castilian measure, and at fourteen reals in the places nearest the depots. The nipa wine is laid at six and one-half reals the jar, indistinctly; prices which, although extremely low, are still considered advantageous by the Filipinos themselves, more particularly when it is besides understood, that, from the circumstance of their being growers of this article, they are exempted from military service, as well as several other taxes and public charges.
The coco-wine is a weak spirit, obtained in the following manner: The tree that produces this fruit is crowned by an assemblage of large flowers or corollas, from the center or calix of which issues a fleshy stem, filled with juice. The Indian cuts the extremity of this stem, and inclining the remainder in a lateral manner, introduces it into a large hollow tube which remains suspended, and is found full of sweet and sticky liquor, which the tree in this manner yields twice in every twenty-four hours. “Tuba”.This liquid, called tuba, in the language of the country, is allowed to ferment for eight days in a large vessel, and afterwards distilled by the Indians in their uncouth stills, which are no other than large boilers, with a head made of lead or tin, rendered tight by means of clay, and with a pipe frequently made out of a simple cane, which conveys the spirit to the receiving vessels, without passing, like the serpentine tube used in ordinary stills, through the cooling vats, which so greatly tends to correct the vices of a too quick evaporation. The tuba, obtained in level and hot situations, is much more spirituous than that produced in cold and shady places. In the first, six jars of juice are sufficient to yield one of spirit, and in the latter, as many as eight are requisite; a much greater number, however, would be wanted to rectify this spirit so as to render it equal to what is usually known by Hollands proof. I am not positively certain what degree of strength the coco-brandy, or as it is usually called coco-wine, possesses, but it is evidently inferior to the weakest made in Spain from the juice of the grape. The only circumstance required for it to be approved of, and received into the monopoly-stores, is its being easily ignited by the application of a lighted candle.
Nipa brandy.The nipa is a small tree of the class of palms, which grows in a very bushy form, and multiplies and prospers greatly on the margins of rivers and watery tracts of land. The tuba, or juice, is extracted from the tree whilst in its flowering state, in the same way as that of the coco, and afterwards distilled by a similar process; but it is more spirituous, from six to six and a half jars being sufficient to yield one of wine. The great difference remarked in the prices of these two species of liquor, arises out of the great number of uses to which the fruit of the cocal or coco tree is applicable, and the increase of expense and labor requisite to obtain the juice, owing to the great height of the plant, and the frequent dangers to which the caritones, or gatherers, are exposed in passing from one tree to another, which they do by sliding along a simple cane (bamboo).
Little drunkenness.The impost on, or rather monopoly of, native wine, is in itself little burdensome to the community, as it only falls on the lower and most dissipated orders in society, and for this reason it is not susceptible of the same increase as that of tobacco, of which the use is more general, and now become an object of the first necessity. The native of the Philippine Islands is, by nature, so sober, that the spectacle of a drunken man is seldom noticed in the streets; in the capital, where the most corrupt classes of them reside, it is admirable to see the general abstinence from a vice that degrades the human species. The consumption of the coco and nipa wine is, nevertheless, considerable, for it is used in all their festivities, cock-fights, games, marriages, etc. Accordingly if it is desired to augment the annual sale of these liquors, no way could be more efficient than to increase the number of their festive meetings, and seek pretexts to encourage public diversions, so long as these do not go contrary to the well-regulated order of society, and conflict with the duties of those who are intrusted with its superintendence.
Extension of monopoly urged.
I think that, without resting the prosperity of this branch of the public revenue on principles possessed of so immoral a tendency, it might be rendered more productive to the treasury, if the monopoly could be introduced into the other districts adapted to its establishment. By this I mean to say that, as hitherto the monopoly has been partial, and enforced more in the way of a trial than in a general and permanent manner, much remains to be done, and consequently great scope is left for improvement in this department of the public revenue.
This most assuredly may be attained, if all the local circumstances and impediments, more or less superable, which the matter itself presents, are only taken into due account, and proper exertions made to study and discover the various indirect means of increasing the total mass of contributions, by applying a system more productive and analogous to the nature of the Philippine Islands. With regard to the revenue of the two particular articles above treated on, I merely wish to make it understood that, far from introducing by means of the monopoly, a new vice into the provinces in which I recommend its establishment, it would rather act, in a certain degree at least, as a corrective to pre-existing evils, and the government would derive advantages from an article of luxury, by subjecting its consumption to the same shackles under which it stands in the northern provinces, where its administration is established and carried on for account of the royal treasury.
Former customs usage.In former times, when only vessels belonging to the Asiatic nations visited the port of Manila, with effects from the coast of Coromandel, or the China junks, and now and then a Spanish vessel coming from or going to the Island of Java, with spices for account of Philippine merchants, the receipt of duties was left in charge of a single royal officer, and the valuations of merchandise made by him, in concert with two merchants named by the government; but with the knowledge and assistance of the king’s attorney-general. The modifications and changes which have subsequently taken place in this department have, however, been frequent, as is evidently shown by the historical extract from the proceedings instituted before the Council of the Indies, by the merchants of Seville and Cadiz, in opposition to those of the Philippine Islands, printed in Madrid, 1736, in folio, by order of the said council; but as it does not enter into my views to speak of times so remote, I shall confine my remarks to this branch considered under its present form.
Custom house.In conformity to royal orders of March 15 and May 5, 1786, the Royal Custom House of Manila was definitively organized on its new plan; and from 1788, was placed under the immediate charge of an administrator-general, a controller, a treasurer, aided by a competent number of guards, inspectors, etc., and in every respect regulated on the plan established in the other custom houses.
The freedom of the port being granted to foreign nations, a privilege before enjoyed only by those purely Asiatic, and a new line of trade commenced by the company, the competition in merchandise soon began to increase, as well as the revenue arising therefrom, in such manner that, although the exportation of goods was limited to the cargo of the Acapulco ship, of which the duties are not payable till her arrival there; notwithstanding also the property imported by the company from China and India, and destined for their own shipments, was exempt from duties, and above all, the continual interruptions experienced by the maritime commerce of the Islands within the last 15 or 20 years, the net proceeds of the custom house, from the period above mentioned of its establishment, till the close of 1809, have not been less than from $138,000 to $140,000, on an average, independent of the amount of the king’s fifth on the gold of the country, which is collected by the same administrator, in consequence of its being trivial; as well as the two per cent. belonging to the Board of Trade, and by them collected under that title, and afterwards separately applied to the average-fund and which usually may be estimated from $20,000 to $25,000.
The general duties now levied in the custom house, are the following:
Port charges and duties.Six per cent. almojarisfago is on all kinds of merchandise imported in foreign bottoms, under a valuation made by the surveyors, in conformity to the respective prices of the market at the time on importation; it usually is regulated by an increase of 50% on the prime cost of India goods, and of 33⅓% on those from China. This duty may be considered as, in fact, equal to nine per cent on the former, and eight on the latter.
6%, or the same duty, on all foreign goods, although imported in national bottoms.
3% on Spanish goods, imported under the national flag, equal, according to the above estimate to 4 and 4½%.
2% Board of Trade duty, indistinctly on all foreign property, equivalent to 2½ or 3%.
25% anchorage dues, levied on the total amount of the almojarisfago duty.
An additional of 2.5% new and temporary duty, called subvencion, appropiated to the payment of the loan made to the king by the Cadiz Board of Trade, and leviable on all kinds of imported goods, and, of course, equal, according to the usual mode of valuation, to about three per cent.
3% on the exportation of coined silver and gold of the country, in dust and, ingots.
An additional or duty of subvencion, or temporary duty on the above, equal to one-half per cent.
1.5% under the same rate, on all kinds of goods, and equal to 2% or 2.5%.
1.5% on the amount of the cargo of the Acapulco ship, on leaving the port of Manila, equal to ¾% on the real prime cost.
Slight concession to the Company.The company are considered in the same light as the rest of the merchants, in the graduation and payment of duties, on such goods as they sell out of their own stores for local consumption, to the Company, with the exemption only of the Board of Trade rate of 2% and 3%, on the exportation of silver, according to a special privilege, and in conformity to the 61st Article of the new royal decree of 1803.
Besides the duties above enumerated, there is another trifling one established for local purposes of peso merchante, being a rate for the use of the king’s scales, levied according to an extremely equitable tariff, on certain articles only of solid weight, such as iron, copper, etc. The raw materials as well as all kinds of manufactured articles, belonging to the Islands, are exempt from duties on their entry in the port and river of Manila; but some of the first are subject to the most unjust of all exactions, that is, to an arbitrary tax and to the obligation of being retailed out on board the vessels in which they have been brought down, and deliverable only to persons bearing a written order, signed by the sitting members of the municipal corporation. Among this class of articles may be mentioned the coco of Cebu and the wax and oil of the Bisayas, which are rated as objects of the first necessity.
Undervaluation of galleon goods.
With regard to the respective duties on the cargo annually dispatched by the merchants of Manila to New Spain, the practice of galleon is tolerably well regulated. An extreme latitude is given to the moderate rates at which it is ordered to value the goods contained in the manifest, by which means these are frequently put down at only one-half of their original prime cost; the commission to frame the scale of valuations which is to be in force for five years, after which time it is renewed, being left to three merchants, and made subject to the revision of the king’s attorney-general (fiscal) and the approbation of the governor; consequently, such being the nature of the tariff on which these operations are founded, the 33⅓% to which the royal duties amount on the $500,000 stipulated in the permit, does not, in fact, affect the shipper beyond the rate of 15 per cent, in consequence of the great difference between the prime cost and valuation of the articles corresponding to the permit; or, what is the same thing, between the $500,000 nominal value, and $1,100,000 or $1,200,000, the real amount of the cargo in question. The most remarkable circumstance, however, is, that the officers of the revenue in Acapulco collect the above-mentioned 33⅓% in absolute conformity to the Manila valuation, and not according to the value of the goods in America, and without any other formality than a comparison of the cargo with the ship’s papers. In honor of truth, it ought to be further observed that, although the Manila merchant by this means seeks to exempt himself from the part of the enormous duties with which it has been attempted to paralyze the only commercial intercourse he carries on with New Spain, in every other respect connected with this operation, he acts in a sufficiently legal manner, and if at their return those vessels have been in the habit of bringing back near a million of dollars in a smuggled way, it must be acknowledged that it is the harshness of the law which compels the merchant to become a smuggler; for according to the strange regulation by which he is thwarted in the returns representing the proceeds of his outward operation, he must either bring the money to the Philippine Islands without having it declared on the ship’s papers, or be obliged to leave the greatest part of it in the hands of others, subject to such contingencies as happen in trade. As long, therefore, as the present limitations subsist, which only authorize returns equal to double the value of the outward-bound cargo, this species of contraband will inevitably continue. The governors also, actuated by the principles of reason and natural justice, will, as they have hitherto done, wink at the infraction of the fiscal laws; a forbearance, in fact, indirectly beneficial to them, inasmuch as it eventually contributes to the general improvement of the colony. Indeed, without this species of judicious condescension, trade would soon stand still for the want of the necessary funds to carry it on.
Unbusinesslike custom ways….. It will readily be acknowledged that, in like manner as the good organization of custom houses is favorable to the progress of general commerce, so nothing is more injurious to its growth and the enterprise of merchants, than any uncertainty or arbitrary conduct in the levying of duties to be paid by them. This arises out of the circumstance of every merchant, entering on a new speculation, being anxious to have, as the principal ground work of his combinations, a perfect knowledge of the exact amount of his disbursements, in order to be enabled to calculate the final result with some degree of certainty. Considered in this point of view, the system adopted in the Islands is certainly deplorable, since it must be acknowledged that the principles and common rules of all other commercial countries, are there unknown. For example; this year a cargo arrives from China or Bengal, and the captain turns in his manifest. The custom-house surveyors then commence the valuation of the goods of which his cargo is composed: I say they commence, because it is a common thing for them not to have finished the estimate of the scale and amount of corresponding duties, till the expiration of two, four, and not unfrequently six months. The rule they affect to follow, in this valuation, is that of the prices current in the market, and in order to ascertain what these are, they are seen going round inquiring in the shops of the Sangleys (Chinese), till at length, finding it useless to go in search of correct and concurrent data, in a place where there are neither brokers nor public auctions, they are forced to determine in an arbitrary manner, and as the adage goes, always take good care to see their employers on the right side of the hedge. The grand work being ended, with all this form and prolixity, the sentence of the surveyors is irrevocable. The bondsman of the captain, who, in the meanwhile, has usually sold his cargo and departed with a fresh one for another destination, pays in the amount of the duties, thus regulated by law.
Variations in valuations
The practical defects and injurious consequences of such a system as this, it would be unnecessary to particularize. It would, however, be less intolerable, if, once put in force, it could serve the merchant as a guide in the valuations of his property for a determined number of successive years.
What, however, renders this assessment more prejudicial, is its instability and uncertainty, and the repetition of the same operation I have just described every year, and with every cargo that arrives; but under distinct valuations, according to the reports or humor of the day. Besides these great defects and irregularity, the Philippine custom house observes the singular practice of not allowing the temporary landing of goods entered in transitu and for re-exportation, as is done on the bonding system in all countries where exertions are made by those in authority for the extension and improvement of commerce in every possible way. Of course, much less will they consent to the drawback or return of any part of the duties on goods entered outwards, even though they are still on board the very vessels in which they originally came shipped.
Beyond all doubt, the wrongly understood severity of such a system, has, and will, continue to prevent many vessels from frequenting the port of Manila, and trying the market, unable to rely on the same liberal treatment they can meet with in other places.
The bonga, or areca-nut, is the fruit of a very high palm-tree, not unlike the one that bears the date, and the nuts, similar to the latter, hang in great clusters from below the protuberance of the leaves or branches. Its figure and size resemble a common nut, but solid, like the nutmeg. Divided into small pieces, it is placed in the center of a small ball made of the tender leaves of the buyo or betel pepper, lightly covered with slacked lime, and this composition constitutes the celebrated betel of Asia, or, as it is here called, the buyo, the latter differing from that used in India, inasmuch only as it contains cardamomom.