ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police and military authorities in close coordination with the local Bureau of Customs in the city seized about 1,123 master cases of smuggled imported cigarettes with an estimated worth of P39,305,000 million in three separate anti-smuggling operations in the city and Basilan province yesterday.
District Collector Segundo Barte Jr. of Bureau of Customs, Zamboanga City said that the biggest haul during the three-day campaign was the interception of motor launch M/L Al-Ayessa near the shores of Taguto in Pilas Island, Basilan province, loaded with 1,008 master cases of smuggled cigarettes in an estimated market value of P35,280,000 million last Wednesday night.
Barte’s office initiated the campaign after the local port collector observed that smugglers continuously did nefarious activities in Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (ZamBaSulTa).
“What we did was only to send them a message that we are not sleeping in our campaign against smuggling of imported products brought to this city and in ZamBaSulTa provinces since it is one of the priority programs of BoC Chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero,” Barte emphasized.
“Expect more raids to come in the coming days since we have already received information on the location of bodegas of these smugglers of imported tobacco products,” He added.
Among the popular brands of imported cigarettes brought to this city included Fort, Famous, Cannon, New Berlin, Astro, San Marino, Soda, Royal, Union, Champion red and green, Tradition and New Far.
Police and military authorities also arrested and interrogated 21 individuals, asking among others the origin of the cargos and the owners.
Barte said that the local BOC will recommend to its central office Manila the filing of appropriate charges against the 21 arrested transporters of the contraband.
He has also ordered the BOC Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) and Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) to regularly conduct seaborne patrol in tandem with the police and establish a random checkpoint in strategic areas of ZamBaSulTa provinces.
Most of the illicit goods or contraband that are brought to the city originated from the province of Sulu, one of the provinces comprising the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Barte said that during the month of July alone, the BOC, with the police and military has seized a total of 2,024 master cases of assorted imported Tobacco products with the estimated market worth of P70,840,000 million.