ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippine authorities are holding 11 Bangladeshi and four Chinese sailors, including dozens of Filipinos for smuggling some 27,000 bags of rice while at sea off the southern province of Zamboanga Sibugay, security officials said Sunday.
Officials said the cargo ship Diamond 8 was seized by the navy late Saturday off Olutanga town after soldiers discovered the contraband. Two smaller boats “Yssa Maine” and “Yousra” which were hauling bags of rice managed to escape and were being tracked down by the navy.
Philippine Navy photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show the cargo ship Diamond 8 and its crew, and the smuggled rice.
Among those being held is the ship’s captain, Lin Yang Yin, who failed to show legal documents for the contraband, according to Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the naval forces in the region. He said the ship was carrying 27,180 bags of rice worth nearly P68 million.
Medina said they radioed the ship after it was spotted off Olutanga, but it did not respond, forcing the navy to send patrol ships for fear that the vessel was under attack or being harassed by pirates. But soldiers were shocked to discover the ship was loaded with 1,359 tons of rice and immediately seized the vessel.
He said there were 34 undocumented Filipinos – some of them are minors – and 17 others whose identities remain unknown. Medina said the navy already informed and coordinated with the Bureau of Customs, Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Immigration, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Medina said the ship was brought to the headquarters of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao in Zamboanga City where authorities are investigating those apprehended.
“The successful foiling of the illegal transport of smuggled tons of rice is a result of an intensified and focused maritime patrol and operation of the Philippine Navy. With this, the Philippine Navy through the Naval Forces Western Mindanao will continue to conduct constant monitoring and patrolling to deter any unlawful activities in its area of operation for a secured maritime environment,” he said.
It was not immediately known where the rice originated or who was behind it or its receiver in the province. Most of the smuggled rice that is now flooding the market in the region come from Malaysia. (Mindanao Examiner)
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