ZAMBOANGA CITY -– Operatives of the Joint Task Group Zamboanga and Philippine Navy have intercepted late Thursday an estimated PHP12.6 million shipment of smuggled sugar off this city.

The apprehension came three days after Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has challenged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and all law enforcement agencies to put a stop to smuggling activities and run after the smugglers once and for all.

Special Agent Orlando Sangid, chief of the local customs police, on Friday said the troops were on patrol when they spotted a wooden-hulled vessel sailing towards the coast of Barangay Recodo, 14.45 kilometers west of City Hall.

Sangid said the troops found the vessel, M/L Nurhuda, was loaded with at least 7,000 sacks of imported sugar of 50 kilos each with no pertinent documents.

He said the estimated market value of the shipment is PHP12.6 million. The sugar was believed to have been produced in Thailand based on the sacks’ markings.

He said the shipment of the smuggled sugar came from Sandakan, Sabah, based on the last port of call of M/L Nurhuda, which has 13 crewmen aboard.

The vessel and its cargoes were turned over to the BoC for appropriate action.

Salazar, who made the challenged to run after smugglers, has deplored the rampant smuggling of domestic sugar from Thailand into this city.

Salazar said the local sugar farmers, who are already suffering from the effects of El Niño, will further lose their livelihood if smuggling of sugar will not be stopped.

Salazar bewailed the local industry is greatly affected since Thai sugar is sold in the local market at PHP1,300 to PHP1,500 per 25-kilo sack against the locally produced sugar at PHP2,600 per 25-kilo sack. PNA/