Hataman asks BoC, Navy to unmask, jail smugglers in Sulu
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines– Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has challenged the Bureau of Customs and Philippine Navy officials to unmask and put behind bars smugglers who use Sulu as base in their illegal activities.
“We need to unmask the smugglers operating in Sulu. Sulu is under ARMM and Sulu is used as hub of smuggling activities, our authorities must name and unmask these smugglers,” Hataman said, labeling smugglers as economic saboteurs.
Earlier, Customs Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa said “top Sulu politicians” were behind the attempt to smuggle some P150 million worth of Vietnam rice, which authorities seized off Pata Island on February 23, to Western Mindanao.
“Top Sulu politicians owned the smuggled rice,” Dellosa said during a visit here last month.
Pressed for more details he said, “Not now, just top Sulu politicians.”
Hataman said he knew the BOC and the Philippine Navy have the identities of those behind the smuggling attempt.
“They should know who are involved and who these smugglers are. It is very impossible for them to say they don’t have details,” he said.
Hataman said the lucrative smuggling activities did not only create a bad image for the ARMM but they also kill the livelihood of “poor farmers.”
“This is big setback for our farmers,” he said.
Hataman also said he was puzzled why foreign cargo vessels, similar to the Vietnamese vessel seized in February, could easily dock at Pata Island.
“Smuggling kills our farmers that’s why it’s an economic sabotage,” he added.
In reaction to Hataman’s challenge, Dellosa told the Inquirer via text message that the BOC was pursuing the case.
He said a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) had already been issued in the case of the February 23 seizures and the next process would be “legal proceedings to be conducted by the BOC legal division.”
Dellosa said. He added only then can a final resolution be issued.
He also said the seized rice and vessels were under BOC custody while the 17 Vietnamese crew of the seized foreign vessel had been taken under custody of the Bureau of Immigration.
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