INTERCEPTED. Navy personnel escort a motorboat loaded with some P6.6 million worth of smuggled cigarettes to the Romulo Espaldon Naval Station that houses the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) headquarters in Zamboanga City. The shipment was seized Sunday (July 31, 2022) off Sulu province when the NFWM troops together with Bureau of Customs personnel launched a seaborne patrol after being tipped off of the contraband. (Photo courtesy of NFWM)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) have apprehended a motorboat with five-man crew and loaded with PHP6.6 worth of smuggled cigarettes off Sulu province, a top NFWM official said Monday.

Rear Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr., NFWM commander, said the shipment of smuggled cigarettes was seized around 3:45 a.m. Sunday, some two nautical miles east off Balod Island, Sulu.

Adaci said the NFWM and Bureau of Customs (BOC) operatives launched maritime patrol following information about the shipment of smuggled cigarettes that led to the confiscation of the contraband and arrest of five people.

Adaci identified the arrested crew of the motorboat as Monal Sappari Haili, Asmad Ismael Tingkahan, Latas Tingkahan Ismael, Bardi Ukkan, and Asli Tingkahan.

“The operating unit chase the watercraft, which attempted to flee under cover of darkness after sensing the approach of Navy’s patrol boat,” Adaci said.

“The operatives caught up with the watercraft and subjected it to visit, board, search and seizure procedure, which led to the discovery and seizure of its undocumented cargo,” he added.

Operatives found the motorboat was loaded with some PHP6.6 million of smuggled Fort and Astro cigarettes. The contraband was transported out of Sulu when intercepted.

Adaci said the motorboat was towed to the Romulo Espaldon Naval Station that houses the NFWM headquarters in this city. The crew were found to be in good physical condition when subjected to medical check-up at Camp Navarro General Hospital. (PNA)