BUSTED. Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service at the Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP) chief Alvin Enciso checks smuggled cigarettes discovered in a warehouse raided by a composite team in Indanan, Sulu on Thursday (March 2, 2023). Elements from from Western Mindanao Command-Armed Forces of the Philippines (WESMINCOM-AFP), 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (11ID PA), Philippine Air Force-Special Operations Wing (PAF-SPOW), Joint Task Force (JTF)-Sulu, Philippine Navy-Naval Special Operations Unit (PN-NAVSOU), and PN Naval Forces also join the raid. (Photo courtesy of BOC)

MANILA – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Thursday raided a warehouse in Sulu with more or less PHP1.425 billion worth of illegally imported cigarettes.

A composite team lead by the BOC and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service at the Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP), went to the warehouse in Sitio Buotan, Barangay Kajatian in Indanan town for the implementation of the Letter of Authority (LOA) issued by Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio.

A warehouse representative identified as Nomil K. Arani acknowledged the LOA, allowing the group to proceed to inspect the facility where they found an estimated 19,000 master cases of assorted imported cigarettes, such as B&E ice menthol, New Far menthol, Souvenir menthol, Cannon menthol, BroadPeak black menthol and Bravo.

The smuggled cigarettes were immediately hauled to the Port of Zamboanga via a Philippine Navy (PN) vessel.

Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Juvymax Uy said the operation was immediately conducted after receiving derogatory information from the CIIS.

“Remember that this happened in Sulu, in Indanan. Yet, despite how far Mindanao is from us, we made sure that distance won’t stop us from serving the LOA,” he said in a statement.

“Simply put, we will stop at nothing and we will be present in every corner of the Philippines to make sure there won’t be space for these illegal activities,” he added.

Assigned Customs examiners at the Port of Zamboanga have started the inventory of goods, which was witnessed by CIIS and Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) agents and warehouse representatives.

On the other hand, Enciso noted that the recent warehouse raids that led to billions worth of discovery of smuggled items was made possible because the commissioner understands what is at stake.

“Commissioner Rubio is setting the standard for us. These recent raids are examples of how the agency will work moving forward,” he said.

The District Collector will immediately be issuing the Warrant of Seizure and Detention against subject smuggled cigarettes for possible violations of Executive Order No. 245, also known as "Amended Rules and Regulations Governing the Exportation and Importation of Leaf Tobacco and Tobacco Products,” National Tobacco Administration (NTA) Memorandum Circular No. 03, series of 2004; NTA Board Resolution No. 079-2005 in relation to Sec. 1113 (f and Sec. 117 in connection to section 1401 of R.A No. 10863 otherwise known as Customs Modernization and Tariff Act(CMTA) of 2016.

The operation was also in coordination with elements from the Western Mindanao Command-Armed Forces of the Philippines, 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force-Special Operations Wing, Joint Task Force-Sulu, Philippine Navy-Naval Special Operations Unit and PN Naval Forces Mindanao. (PNA)