• Navy, BOC seize smuggled rice, logs

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Naval authorities and Customs police have seized more than P20 million worth of rice and logs here, officials said on Tuesday.

    Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, who heads the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said they intercepted on Monday four boats—M/L Ayang, DCM Trader, M/L Kimber B and M/L Wish Me Luck —loaded with 16,000 sacks of rice and 4,500 pieces of Falcataria logs.

    “All apprehended watercraft and their cargoes were properly turned-over to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Zamboanga City for proper documentation and filing of appropriate charges,” Yoma said.

    He said the navy’s intensified patrol is part of its assistance to the BOC in its bid to curb smuggling in Zamboanga City. The patrol is also intended to secure coastal areas in the region against bandit groups, according to the navy official.

    Recently, Customs Commissioner John Sevilla visited Zamboanga City and Sulu where he met with local rice traders and government officials.

    In Zamboanga City, Sevilla vowed to address reports of rampant smuggling after the local city council passed a resolution asking President Benigno Aquino 3rd to order a probe on unabated rice smuggling which is hurting legitimate dealers here.

    Most of the rice shipments were smuggled to Tawi-Tawi from Malaysia by boats owned by unregistered traders then transported to Sulu, Zamboanga City, and other parts of western Mindanao where they are sold for as low as P700 per 25-kilo sack compared to P1,200 for local rice.

    Sevilla also met with Gov. Totoh Tan of Sulu where the Customs official briefed the governor about the bureau’s campaign against illegal rice trading.

    He was accompanied by his deputies, Jessie Dellosa, Ariel Nepomuceno, and Customs Collector Migelfio Saquisame.

    Tan, meanwhile, has pledged his full support to various programs of the BOC and the government’s campaign against smuggling in the province.

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