Navy seizes P15-M suspected smuggled cigarettes

By Nonoy Lacson

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Naval Forces in Western Mindanao (Naforwem), in coordination with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in this city, seized 750 cases of suspected smuggled tobacco products with an estimated market value of P15 million Wednesday night from a wooden-hulled commercial vessel.

Bureau of Customs (BoC) Zamboanga City District Collector Segundo Barte Jr. said the suspected smuggled imported tobacco products were about to be unloaded on at a finger wharf in Sitio Stanbak, Lower Calarian, this city, when they were intercepted.

Alert members of the Philippine Navy immediately scored the area after receiving reports that the imported tobacco products were about to be unloaded.

After locating the vessel, Navy personnel immediately boarded it and seized the imported products. The vessel was also towed to Majini pier located inside the Naval headquarters here for inventory.

Barte said as of Thursday no one has surfaced to claim or present documents legalizing the importation of the products.

“Nobody came in the open to claim the imported tobacco products and in the absence of import permit documents coming from the National Tobacco Administration, these tobacco products are deem illegal,” Barte said.

He also asked traders in this city who wishes to engage in the sale and distribution of imported tobacco products to “secure first an import permit with the National Tobacco Administration, otherwise, BOC will confiscate these products and destroy them.”

Barte said he will order the pre-condemnation for the seized contraband for violation of Executive Order No. 245, the Amended Rules and Regulations Governing the Exportation and Importation of Leaf Tobacco and Tobacco Products; and Section 117 of RA 10863 in relation to Section 1113 par. (f) and (g) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Barte said the contraband will be destroyed to avoid pilferage because all the BOC rented warehouses are all full of smuggled imported goods.

“For as long as I am here in this city as your BOC collector, I will never tolerate smuggling activities, particularly cigarettes and sugar,” Barte said.

He said that “the immediate condemnation of the imported cigarettes will send traders a strong signal that under my watch, all contraband bound for the city will be apprehended and owners will be jailed if we can identify them.”

BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero had earlier said that Barte was sent to this city to clean it of smuggled goods and to jail smugglers.