By Nonoy Lacson and Betheena Kae Unite
ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in this city has seized close to P118 million worth of cigarettes and agricultural products coming from Sandakan, Malaysia.
Zamboanga City Customs District Collector Segundo Barte, Jr., said Thursday the figure comes the series of apprehensions this year of smuggled cigarettes and agricultural products like rice and sugar.
Barte said the seized cigarettes had a market value of about P100 million. Rice and sugar accounted for P12,599,975, and Chinese cosmetics and medicines totaled P5,255,400. They were discovered in two ships docked at the Weebin Private Wharf in Balisawan Seaside, Zamboanga City on August 19.
The rice shipment was found inside the vessel “Nhardzrmar-2” which came from Pangutaran, Sulu while the smuggled cigarettes were discovered inside MV “Trisha Kirstin-1” of Aleson Shipping Lines which originated from Isabela City, Basilan.
Customs operatives failed to identify the owners of the cigarettes most of which were loaded on passenger ferry boats plying the Zamboanga- Jolo, Sulu and Bongao, Taw-Tawi routes.
“My operatives failed to identify the owners of these imported cigarettes since nobody has claimed ownership of the cargoes when apprehended,” Barte said.
The traders who brought in the rice and sugar shipments also failed to present an importation permit, he said.
The importers of the Chinese cosmetics and medicines violated the Food and Drugs Administration Act of 2009 and the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) of 2016, Barte said.
“The seizure of cigarettes should serve as a warning to smugglers and manufacturers of fake cigarettes,” Barte said.
Early this month, the Philippine Tobacco Institute, Inc., (PTI) congratulated Barte for cracking down on illicit tobacco products in Zamboanga City.
From January to June this year, P145 million worth of various agricultural products were apprehended by the bureau in 17 instances while P1.7-billion cigarettes were seized in 16 operations during that period, the bureau earlier said in its mid-year report.