Zamboanga City

Customs bureau destroys P595M worth of smuggled cigarettes in Zamboanga

Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.

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Customs bureau destroys P595M worth of smuggled cigarettes in Zamboanga

DESTROY. Authorities prepare to destroy P595.22 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in Barangay Baliwasan, Zamboanga City on Thursday, June 13.

Teofilo Garcia Jr./Rappler

Authorities also arrest three persons and seize P9.1 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in Bolong, Zamboanga a day earlier

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Authorities destroyed P595.22 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in Barangay Baliwasan, Zamboanga City on Thursday, June 13.

Arthur Sevilla, Bureau of Customs-Port of Zamboanga district collector, said the smuggled cigarettes were seized through maritime patrol operations and inter-agency checkpoints in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi from November 2023 to April 2024.

The confiscated cigarettes, consisting of more than 8,816 huge boxes and 1,014 reams, were manually shredded, drenched in water, and repeatedly crushed by heavy equipment in the presence of representatives from other government agencies.

Sevilla said the contraband was disposed of following environmental regulations and public safety measures.

“We are not allowed to burn these cigarettes as per the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Health,” Sevilla said.

He said these will be disposed of in the local government-owned sanitary landfill in Barangay Salaan, Zamboanga.

Thursday’s destruction was the first in Zamboanga since November 30, 2023, when 5,624 huge boxes and 1,171 reams of assorted brands of cigarettes worth P323.59 million were destroyed. The cigarettes were seized between May and November 2023.

Fresh catch

On Wednesday, June 12, authorities arrested three persons and seized P9.1 million worth of smuggled cigarettes along Maria Clara Lorenzo Lobregat Highway in Barangay Bolong, Zamboanga City.

Police identified the arrested suspects as Khalid Dahim, 39, and Abdurahman Abdulla, 27, both of Zamboanga City, and Alnasir Taha, 40, of Indanan, Sulu.

The shipment was seized by the police at a checkpoint after receiving information that a truck loaded with smuggled cigarettes was traveling toward the eastern part of Zamboanga City. 

Investigators said the shipment was bound either for Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, or Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte.

Illegal factory?

Sevilla said they suspected that an illegal cigarette factory was operating in the Zamboanga Peninsula regions, pointing out that raw materials such as filters and tobacco were among the items destroyed on Thursday. 

He said the raw materials were seized at the maritime border between Malaysia and the Philippines, specifically in Tawi-Tawi, in January 2024.

“They will not bring these raw materials here and just leave them as they are,” Sevilla said. “This is evidence that they want to manufacture cigarettes here. These raw materials were seized just after crossing the maritime border from Malaysia.”

In March 2020, government authorities raided an illegal cigarette factory in Barangay San Jose, Dinas, Zamboanga del Sur. They seized cigarette-making machines and production materials, including rolling paper, taping paper, tobacco, and counterfeit Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) stamps, reported the state-owned Philippine News Agency.

In May 2020, authorities uncovered three illegal cigarette factories in a series of raids in barangays Balintawak, Kawit, and San Jose, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, seizing piles of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes and eight boxes of counterfeit documentary stamps. – Rappler.com

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