By Raymund Antonio
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has officially turned over 60,000 sacks of smuggled rice worth P120 million seized in Zamboanga Sibugay to the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Captain Ronnie Gil Gavan, district commander of PCG Southwestern Mindanao, led the turnover of the confiscated rice to BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, with Port of Zamboanga District Collector Darwisha Schuck and other PCG officials as witnesses.
A Philippine-registered cargo ship, identified as M/V J-Phia, was found by PCG personnel carrying the sacks of rice without import permits and other required documents while it was docked on Licum Banks in Zamboanga.
The joint units of PCG apprehended the vessel after the agency received information that M/V J-Phia was transporting a cargo transferred from a foreign vessel in Sulu sea.
Upon inspection, the ship’s captain, Rogelio Necessario, failed to show safety certificates, shipping documents, and import permit.
The captain told the PCG the ship’s last port of call was in Cagayan de Oro, but he was not able to present any record of departure to prove his claim.
The BOC has launched a probe to determine the source of the smuggled rice.
“The custody of the seized cargo is now with the Bureau of Customs; we will conduct further investigation to know the real origin of the smuggled rice, the sender, and the consignee if it is really intended for consumption in the Philippines,” Lapeña said.
The owner and captain of the ship, including the crew members, will face smuggling charges for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.
He vowed to “strengthen our information sharing and cooperation with other border patrol agencies” to prevent the entry of smuggled goods.
The commissioner lauded the PCG for intercepting the illegal rice.
The Coast Guard escorted the seized ship to the Port of Zamboanga, where it is now docked.
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