Troops seize P17.3-M smuggled cigarettes, destroy marijuana plantation

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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Naval Task Group (NTG)-Sulu and police forces have seized some P17.3 million worth of smuggled cigarettes and destroyed a two-hectare marijuana plantation in the province of Sulu, officials announced Saturday.

Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, 11th Infantry Division commander said the smuggled cigarettes shipment was seized Tuesday evening in Pugaran Island, Barangay Karundong, Kalingalan Caluang, Sulu.

Gonzales, also the Joint Task Force (JTF)-Sulu commander, said the marijuana plantation was destroyed Wednesday afternoon in Sitio Kan Basih, Barangay Masjid Punjungan, also in Kalingalang Caluang town.

Gonzales said the NTG-Sulu headed Col. Hernanie Songano seized the shipment of smuggled cigarettes during a joint maritime law enforcement operation following receipt of information from a concerned citizen.

He said the the NTG-Sulu intercepted M/B Princess Arlyn loaded with some 360 master cases of assorted smuggled cigarettes worth P17.3 million near Pugaran Island, Barangay Karundong, Kalingalan Caluang town.

He said initial investigation revealed that the vessel came from Indonesia and intends to deliver the smuggled goods to Cotabato City.

“A navy patrol craft escorted the apprehended vessel going to Zamboanga City for its proper disposition. Both the vessel and the smuggled goods are now with Bureau of Customs Zamboanga,” said Songano, who is also the 4th Marine Brigade commander.

Meanwhile, the marijuana plantation was found by the Marine Battalion Landing Team-7 (MBLT-7) troops led by Lt. Col. Eduardo Olaso while on security operation in Sitio Kan Basih, Barangay Masjid Punjungan, Kalingalan Caluang town.

Olaso said the marijuana plantation, with an estimated lot area of two hectares, was planted with more or less 400 stalks of marijuana to include seedling, mid-size and fully-grown plants.

“Together with Municipal Police of Kalingalan Caluang, we uprooted and burned all recovered marijuana,” Olaso said citing the estimated worth of the destroyed marijuana placed at P500,000.

He said the alleged caretaker, a certain Sahabi, was not around when they discovered the marijuana plantation. – Nikolai Gonzalo

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