Navy, BoC foil Sulu smugglers

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Operatives from the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) and Bureau of Customs (BoC) here intercepted a jungkong-type watercraft in Sulu province loaded 182 master cases of assorted undocumented cigarettes with an estimated worth of P8.19 million.

According to NFWM commander Rear Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr., authorities intercepted the watercraft two nautical miles east off Balod Island in Sulu province on Sunday following a brief chase.

Reports said that the watercraft attempted to flee under the cover of darkness after seeing a Navy patrol boat heading in their direction. Authorities eventually were able to catch up with the watercraft and was subjected it to Visit, Board, Search and Seizure procedure which led to the discovery and seizure of 182 master cases of undocumented cigarettes.

Among the brands of smuggled cigarettes seized by the NFWM and BoC operatives were the famous Fort and Astro brands.

Held for questioning were five individuals aboard the watercraft identified as Monal Sappari Haili, Asmad Ismael Tingkahan, Latas TIngkahan Ismael, Bardi Ukkang and Alsi Tingkahan.

The Navy immediately towed and escorted the watercraft to the Ensign Majini Pier at Naval Station Romulo Espaldon in Zamboanga City.

BoC Zamboanga City district collector Segundo Barte Jr. said the arrested individuals underwent medical check-ups at Camp Navarro General Hospital and all were found to be in good physical condition.

Meantime, the K9 Unit of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency regional office here conducted an inspection of the watercraft for the possible presence of prohibited drugs but turned out negative.

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