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The seizure conducted on April 9 was the biggest successful operation against smuggled cigarettes in the history of customs in Zamboanga port. Photo from the Bureau of Customs.

Combined elements of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Philippine Navy, and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) recently seized smuggled cigarettes worth P35 million near the waters off Lower Calarian in Zamboanga.

The seizure conducted on April 9 was the biggest successful operation against smuggled cigarettes in the history of customs in Zamboanga port, BOC said in a statement.

BOC Zamboanga district collector Segundo Barte, Jr. said the collaborative effort between the customs bureau, Navy and PCG complied with the directive of Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to intensify anti-smuggling operations in the ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) area.

Barte said the seizure stemmed from intelligence report from Zamboanga residents that was forwarded on April 7 by BOC’s Intelligence Group.

“We immediately coordinated the said report with the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and other government agencies including Task Force Zamboanga for possible apprehension of more or less 3,000 cigarette cases at Hadji Taha wharf in Baliwasan but the vessel did not arrive,” Barte said.

BOC and other partner-government agencies continued their monitoring. On April 9, the Philippine Navy intercepted watercraft MJ Andrea I containing 1,159 cases of cigarettes smuggled from Indonesia and for delivery to Lower Calarian.

Observed by Philippine Drug and Enforcement Agency (PDEA) personnel, a thorough search was immediately conducted by the operatives to determine if illegal drugs were stored inside the ship. PDEA’s K9 dogs inspected the vessel and found it negative for drugs.

The shipment will now be issued a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) in the absence of the National Tobacco Administration permit and for violating Executive Order No. 245 (Amended Rules & Regulations Governing the Exportation and Importation of Tobacco and Tobacco Products) and Section 117 of Republic Act No. 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act of 2016, in relation to Section 1113 (Property Subject to Seizure and Forfeiture) paragraph f and g.

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