ZAMBOANGA CITY: A vessel loaded with 16,000 bags of rice, believed to be smuggled into the country from Malaysia, and 4,500 Falcata logs escaped the Bureau of Customs (BoC) in Zamboanga City early Tuesday dawn. The vessel, M/L Ayang, was among the four boats intercepted by the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command and turned over to the Bureau last Monday.
However, the Bureau’s Zamboanga district office requested for Police and Military assistance on Tuesday to track the boat down and to report when this is sighted within Philippine seas.
“Intercept M/L Ayang if found at the coastal areas in your respective area of responsibility and immediately inform this office (BoC) when apprehended,” a part of the request reads.
Supt. Ariel Huesca, chief of the Zamboanga City Public Safety Company (ZCPSC) and spokesman of the City police office, said he already directed his personnel to closely monitor coastal areas and to stop the boat if it is sighted.
He also called on the public to help the trackers by reporting to the Police if they spot the boat, which was last seen moored at the Customs holding area of the Zamboanga city port at dawn on Tuesday.
Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, who heads the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, surrendered the custody of M/L Ayang, along with DCM Trader, M/L Kimber B and M/L Wish Me Luck, to the Customs authorities after intercepting it on Monday.
He said the capture of the four boats was part of the navy’s intensified coastal patrols to assist the BOC in its bid to curb smuggling in Zamboanga City. The patrols are also intended to secure coastal areas in the region against bandit groups.
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 and 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.
WITH PNA REPORTS