SMUGGLED CIGARETTES. Police officers and Bureau of Customs personnel conduct inventory of the smuggled cigarettes seized Wednesday (Aug. 10, 2022) near Manalipa Island, Zamboanga City. The confiscated smuggled cigarettes came from Jolo, Sulu, and bound for Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. (Photo courtesy of Zamboanga City Police Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Authorities have apprehended six people and seized some PHP2.2 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in separate law enforcement operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula, an official said Thursday.

Joint police and Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel scored their biggest haul of smuggled cigarettes worth PHP1.6 million on  here Wednesday near Manalipa Island.

Colonel Alexander Lorenzo, city police director, said the team launched a seaborne patrol following information that a motorboat loaded with smuggled cigarettes was set to pass near Manalipa Island.

Lorenzo said the four-man crew, in a motorboat locally known as “junkong”, was found loaded with 43 master cases and 94 reams of imported cigarettes worth PHP1.6 million.

He identified the arrested suspects as Julhasim Said, 31, the skipper; Albaser Said, 24; Akramin Tarawi, 34; and Rahim Said, 38. They are residents of Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The smuggled cigarettes came from Jolo, Sulu, and bound for Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, the crewmen told the police.

Meanwhile, Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said two persons were also arrested Monday aboard a roll-on, roll-off commercial vessel moored at Pulauan Port in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Verceles said combined maritime police and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel put on hold a cargo truck they found loaded with undocumented seashells packed in sacks.

Verceles said the truck driven by Silbin Basiri, 25, and his 15-year-old assistant, were ordered to disembark from the vessel to unload the sacks of seashells.

“During the unloading of sacks of seashells, the inspecting team noticed that there are some boxes wrapped in sacks placed in the innermost pile,” Verceles said.

“The inspecting team opened the boxes and discovered 30 master cases or 150 reams of smuggled cigarettes with an estimated value of PHP618,000,” he added. (PNA)