Huge rice shipment, weapons seized at sea off Southern Philippines
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Security forces seized on Monday at least 131,000 bags of smuggled rice and a cache of illegal weapons from three Filipino boats and a Vietnamese vessel off the southern Philippine island of Pata near the Malaysian border, officials said.
Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said a navy patrol under Commander Richard Rosales and Lieutenant Ed Leonelle Marvin Mapalo, of the 65th Marine Company – intercepted the four vessels and held their crew and skippers for questioning.
She said among those being investigated were 16 Vietnamese and their captain, Nguyen Van Loi – they were onboard MV An Bien 89 ALCI when apprehended off Pata Island. The boat was loaded with 116,000 bags of rice. The ship’s captain said he works for Sunrise Ship and Trading Company.
Muyuela said three other local vessels – ML KH, ML Fatima Nurmina and ML Boy 1 – yielded 15,000 bags of rice and eleven assorted automatic rifles and grenade launchers. She said the three boats had 153 crewmen and workers.
It was not immediately known who owns the weapons and the rice shipment, but smuggling activities are rampant in southern Philippines.
Muyuela said they are coordinating with the Bureau of Customs and police authorities for further investigation of those apprehended. “This operation is part of our efforts to minimize if not eradicate smuggling activities at sea,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)
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