ZAMBOANGA CITY—Authorities confiscated some P300 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in the waters off Siasi, Sulu on Sunday.
The contraband was on board a Sulu-bound cargo vessel, M/L 3 Brothers, which came from Malaysia, said Lt. Chester Cabaltera of Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM).
He said they were tipped off that a motor launch was crossing the waters off Siasi.
The boat captain failed to present documents that the cigarettes were shipped legally, such as an import permit from National Tobacco Administration, Cabaltera added.
Segundo Sigmundfreud Barte Jr., customs district collector in Western Mindanao and BASULTA area, said the confiscated cigarettes were most likely imported, citing the blue-colored seals on packaging.
Cigarettes produced in the Philippines should carry graphic health warning signs, he said.
Barte said the Sulu area was the usual drop-off point of smuggled cigarettes entering the south, before they would be transported to other nearby provinces of Western Mindanao using smaller cargo vessels.
Most of these smuggled cigarettes, he said, were obtained from Malaysia, Indonesia and other nearby Southeast Asian countries.
"Alam natin na sa Indonesia may malaking pagawaan talaga doon na sigarilyo. Doon ang pinakamalaking source ng tobacco leaves, mura talaga magpagawa doon," he said.
The local customs office is expected to issue a warrant of seizure and detention on the shipment.
If the owner will not appear before the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to prove the legality of the shipment, Barte said they would destroy the cigarettes.
If proven these cigarettes are genuine, the BOC has the option to put these on public auction, Barte said.
Barte said they would also sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for the filing of criminal cases against the persons behind the smuggling of the cigarettes.