P60M cigarettes seized in Zambo

Rey Leonardo Guerrero

THE ‘intelligence-driven’ anti-smuggling operation by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) resulted in the biggest apprehension of smuggled cigarettes in the so-called ‘Zambaluta’ (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi) area in Mindanao on Tuesday.

In a report submitted by Port of Zamboanga district collector, Atty. Segundo Barte, to Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, seized near the waters of Lower Calarian, Zamboanga City were 1,159 cases of cigarettes from Indonesia valued at more than P60 million on board the ‘MJ Andrea 1.’

It was the biggest apprehension of a smuggled product in the port’s history, thus far, added Barte.

The anti-smuggling operation started two days earlier when the office of Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence, Raniel Ramiro, provided Barte with an intelligence report that a huge shipment of cigarettes from Indonesia would be unloaded within the vicinity of the Zamboanga peninsula, most likely at the port in Baliwasan.

Barte said he immediately coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) thru the ‘Task Force Zamboanga,’ the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for assistance.

After two days of continous monitoring, the Philippine Navy finally chanced on MJ Andrea, Barte reported.

Ramiro said the vessel was also searched for firearms and for illegal drugs with the assistance of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) but this proved negative.

He added the cigarettes would be confiscated by the BOC after a complete inventory and those behind the foiled smuggling attempt would be charged accordingly on the instruction of Guerrero.

Ramiro, a career military intelligence officer before joining Guerrero at the BOC, earlier told this writer that they would “rely more” on ‘intelligence-driven operations’ (IOD) in the campaign against smuggling in order to gain positive results.

Last March 22, the timely sharing of intelligence by the BOC and the PDEA resulted in the apprehension of 276 kilos of illegal drugs worth P1.8 billion at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), the biggest thus far this year with Guerrero as customs commissioner