ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 19 December) – The vessel loaded with 10,000 sacks of smuggled rice worth P20 million that escaped from the Bureau of Customs’ (BoC) holding area was recaptured Thursday in Patikul, Sulu, a customs official disclosed.
Miguel Pio Saquisami, BoC-Zamboanga district collector, said the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (Navforwem) recaptured the vessel, M/L Ayang, while it was about to unload its remaining cargo at a finger wharf in Patikul.
M/L Ayang was among the four boats loaded with smuggled rice and logs the Navforwem intercepted last Monday at the shore of Barangay Recodo, this city.
The four vessels loaded with 16,000 bags of rice and 4,500 Falcata logs were taken to the local wharf and turned over to the BoC.
However, M/L Ayang was discovered missing around 1 a.m. Tuesday “at the holding area of the port.”
Saquisami said M/L Ayang is back at their holding area at the local wharf. It arrived here from Sulu shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday.
Saquisami disclosed they were informed that M/L Ayang, after its escape, had passed by the port of Maluso town in Basilan and unloaded at least 3,000 sacks of rice.
Saquisami said the vessel’s crew even attempted to change the name of M/L Ayang to M/L Dayang to hide it from the authorities.
Chief Petty Officer Ronald Tolentino, Zamboanga Coast Guard Station deputy commander, said a P50,000 fine will be slapped against the owner of M/L Ayang “for departure without clearance.” The vessel, he said, will be under the custody of the vessel and will be released only after payment of the penalty.
Furthermore, he said that the BoC will take custody of the remaining 7,000 sacks of smuggled rice.