Coast Guard nabs P125M smuggled rice in Zamboanga waters
Philippine Coastguard (PCG) personnel have intercepted a cargo vessel loaded with an estimated P125 million of rice believed to be smuggled off Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay, a top PCG official disclosed Monday.
Capt. Ronnie Gil Gavan, Coastguard District Southwestern Mindanao commander, said the cargo vessel, M/V J-Phia, was intercepted at around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 25 nautical miles southwest of Olutanga island.
Gavan said the PCG elements aboard BRP-Tubbataha (MRRV-4401), “acting on intelligence report from partner agencies,” conducted maritime security patrol and intercepted M/V J-Phia.
Gavan said the vessel and its crew as well as the cargo were all undocumented.
“No boat captain in his right mind will sail without even one document if he has nothing to hide,” he added.
He said at a selling price of P2,500 per sack, the shipment has an estimated value of P125 million with M/V J-Phia filled to the brim loaded with around 50,000 sacks of rice of 50 kilos each.
He said they have taken M/V J-Phia into custody for violation of Republic Act 9993, otherwise known as the Philippines Coast Guard Law of 2009.
He said an investigation team has been activated to determine what are the other violations of M/V J-Phia aside from its undocumented vessel, crew and cargo.
“If the violation is smuggling, the cargo will be turned over to Bureau of Custom. If illegal drugs will be found aboard, we will work with PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” he said.
“If firearms and explosives will be found aboard, will work with the PNP (Philippine National Police) although the coastguard, moto propio, can file a case,” he added.
M/V J-Phia is moored at the local port and being guarded by coast guard personnel. The boat crew has been restricted aboard the vessel.
“They (crew) cannot leave the boat while the investigation is ongoing,” Gavan added.
He said they have yet to determine the point of origin and destination of M/V J-Phia although it is clear the crew are all Filipinos. (PNA)