₱6.6M smuggled cigarettes seized off Sulu island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews /1 Aug) – Joint operatives of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) apprehended five persons on board a jungkong type of boat bearing ₱6.6 million worth of cigarettes at the vicinity two nautical miles east of Balod Island, Sulu province early morning Sunday.

A total of 186 cases of smuggled cigarettes were intercepted by authorities off Balod Island in Sulu early morning Sunday (31 July 2022). Photo courtesy of NFWM PAO

1Lt Chester Ross Cabaltera, NFWM Public Affairs Officer, said the “operating units chased the watercraft that sensed the approach of the Navy’s patrol boat, and subjected it to the VBSS Procedure,” referring to the visit, board, search and seizure procedure.

The individuals on board could not produce the required papers for the transport and led to the discovery and seizure of its undocumented cargo, he said.

“The apprehended boat was then provided with a prize crew while being escorted to Ensign Majini Pier at Naval Station Romulo Espaldon in Zamboanga City,” Cabaltera said.

The five crew members were identified as Monal Sappari Haili, Asmad Ismael Tingkahan, Latas Tingkahan Ismael, Bardi S. Ukkang, and Alsi S. Tingkahan. They underwent medical check-up at Camp Navarro General Hospital and all were found to be in good physical condition.

Likewise, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Region-IX, through its K9 Unit, conducted inspection of the watercraft for the possible presence of prohibited drugs, but found nothing.

The joint inspection and inventory showed that 182 cases of smuggled cigarettes bearing the Fort and Astro markings were confiscated, and was assessed with an aggregate market value of ₱6.62 million, including the boat used for the smuggling activity. 

The apprehended persons and the confiscated items were turned over to the custody of BOC Zamboanga District for proper disposition. (Frencie L. Carreon / MindaNews)