‘Top Sulu politicians’ behind Vietnam rice smuggle try—BOC chief
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Customs Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa said “top Sulu politicians” were behind the attempt to smuggle Vietnam rice — which authorities seized Monday — to Western Mindanao.
“Top Sulu politicians owned the smuggled rice,” Dellosa said Tuesday.
Pressed for more details, he said: “Not now, just top Sulu politicians.”
On Monday, authorities – including the Philippine Navy – intercepted five vessels (not four as earlier reported) off Pata Island in Sulu around 3:25 a.m.
Initially, Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer there were more or less 130,000 sacks of rice seized from the vessels by elements of the Navy’s PG 388 and PG 387 under Lt. Commander Richard Rosales and elements of the 64th Marines Company under 1Lt. Leonelle Marvin Mapalo.
Among the seized vessels was the Vietnam-registered M/V An Bien-89-ALCI and its 16 crew under Captain Nguyen Van Loi had been taken into custody.
Seized from the foreign vessel were 116,000 sacks of imported rice – out of its original cargo of 152,000 sacks – consigned to an Alfarsi Tan Hasiman of Jolo, Sulu.
Reports from the ground units revealed that the foreign cargo vessel arrived on Thursday (February 19) from Mythoi Port in Vietnam with 152,000 sacks of cargo. It started to unload its cargo on February 20 off Pata Island to local vessels that transported the contraband to various Mindanao areas.
Aside from the Vietnam registered ship, four more local vessels were also seized as they were loading rice from MV An Bien-89-ALCI on Monday. The crew of these vessels had also been taken into custody.
These were MV Delta Queen, which was loaded with 20,000 sacks of smuggled sacks earlier unloaded from the Vietnamese cargo ship; ML Boy1, which also had 7,000 sacks unloaded from the same foreign vessel and its additional cargo of nine assault rifles; ML Fatima Nurmina with 1,000 sacks of rice and two assault rifles; and ML KH, loaded with 7,000 sacks – also unloaded from the Vietnamese cargo vessel.
In all, authorities confiscated 151,000 sacks of smuggled rice at an estimated value of P151 million, 20 high powered firearms, 30 boat crew and 134 laborers, mostly Badjaos.
Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said it was a big haul for the government.
Inquirer sources pointed to the Tans but Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan denied any wrongdoing.
“I have no knowledge about that and I do not need to engage in smuggling,” Tan said by phone when reached on Tuesday.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the committee on agriculture and food, told the Inquirer during the hearing on rice and sugar smuggling activities conducted here Tuesday that they were hoping to unmask who were involved in smuggling activities here.
“Hopefully we can identify them and find out what their modus operandi is and what the government can do to minimize smuggling,” Villar said.
She said she hoped witnesses would help them hasten the identification of those behind smuggling activities here. She said they must have wielded some kind of influence here.
“We have to assume that they are rich because they could not do that if they weren’t rich,” Villar added.
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