Navy foils P52.8-M worth Mindanao cigarette smuggling attempt

Navy foils P52.8-M worth Mindanao cigarette smuggling attemptAgents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-9 search for drugs inside boxes containing imported cigarettes seized by members of the Philippine Navy in Zamboanga City Wednesday. / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Authorities intercepted in Zamboanga City Wednesday five boats carrying P52.8 million worth of smuggled cigarettes, two of which were bound for seaside towns in two Bangsamoro provinces.

The five boats were spotted and immediately impounded while about two miles off the seaside Barangay Labuan in Zamboanga City.

Personnel of the Bureau of Customs in Region 9 and members of units under the Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces Western Mindanao and the Zamboanga City Police Office immediately seized the 1,511 boxes of cigarettes with Indonesian brands onboard the five boats.

Reports reaching the headquarters here of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region said it was vigilant residents of Zamboanga City, supporting the anti-cigarette smuggling campaign of their mayor, John Dalipe, who provided information that led to the Navy’s prompt interception of the five boats.

The contraband was said to have come from an island town in Sulu, PRO-BAR officials said.

PRO-BAR intelligence sources told reporters Saturday two of the boats carrying the smuggled cigarettes were to deliver its cargo to buyers in coastal towns in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, both in the Bangsamoro region.

The PRO-BAR, in fact, alerted last Wednesday the municipal police stations in the seaside towns in the second district of Lanao del Sur and in Maguindanao del Norte about a plan by suppliers to bring in more than P20 million worth of cigarettes from Sulu via the Zamboanga peninsula.

The joint Navy and BOC-9 operation that resulted in the seizure of the P52.8 million worth of imported cigarettes was assisted by the agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-9, the Naval Forces Western Mindanao said in a statement Friday.