By Priam Nepomuceno

INTERCEPTED. Troops from the Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Artemio Ricarte seize M/B Mhufar-3 off the waters of Balut Island, Davao Occidental on Tuesday (Feb. 27, 2024). The motorized banca was caught carrying 1,846 master cases of smuggled cigarettes worth PHP28.6 million. (Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday announced that one of its patrol ships intercepted and seized a motorized banca carrying contraband cigarettes off the waters of Balut Island, Davao Occidental.

In a statement, the PN said its offshore patrol vessel BRP Artemio Ricarte captured the M/B Mhufar-3 and its 25 crew members on Tuesday.

A subsequent search by Navy personnel led to the discovery of 1,846 “master cases of cigarettes” with an estimated value of PHP28.6 million in the motorized banca.

The BRP Artemio Ricarte, one of the Navy ships deployed at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM) area of responsibility, has been conducting territorial defense operations in the waters surrounding Balut Island since Feb. 25.

“Upon conducting an inspection, the PS-37 boarding team discovered that the motorized watercraft originated from Tawi-Tawi and was carrying (a) large quantity of boxes of illegal and undocumented cigarettes bound for Malita, Davao Occidental,” the PN said. (PNA)