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Crackdown vs. smuggled vapes tops P4 billion in 3 days ops

P76 million high-grade ‘MJ’ seized at MICP

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THE ongoing crackdown by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) against smuggled ‘e-cigarettes’ commonly known as ‘Vapes’ has totaled more than P4 billion in just three days of operations.

On Thursday, the last day of February, customs operatives spearheaded by the Intelligence Group (IG) raided several warehouses in the cities of Malabon and Parañaque that yielded over P3.72 billion worth of vape products.

“This is an ongoing active investigation and inspection. We are not yet done examining these warehouses, but we will be able to determine at the soonest time possible the exact amount of smuggled vapes they contain,” BOC chief Bienvenido Rubio said, a day after receiving the initial report from IG Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy.

True to his word, Rubio said that another operation in Malabon on Sunday, March 3, yielded some P1 billion worth of smuggled vapes, all of them apparently sourced from China.

Rubio told the media over the weekend that around 20 warehouses in Malabon have been tagged as ‘storage facilities’ for smuggled vape products.

“Our operations against smugglers will not stop until they are all held liable for their crimes,” Rubio stressed further.

Director Verne Enciso, chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), the operating arm of the IG, said when their team inspected one warehouse, they found 8,400 boxes of Flava-branded vape pens. Each box contained 100 pieces of vape pens valued at P550 each. Adding the P520 excise tax that the government must collect for every vape pen, the total aggregate value of the vape products would be P898.8 million.

Aside from the vape products, Enciso said their inspection of 15 other warehouses yielded branded and unbranded shoes, hardware supplies, used clothing, household items and others, all with an estimated value of over P174 million.

The BOC is now verifying if the discovered merchandize have been legally imported before initiating seizure proceeding as mandated by law.

MICP intelligence operatives while inspecting the more than 63 kilos of high-grade (Kush) marijuana that came in from Thailand loaded inside several balikbayan boxes, February 27, 2024 (photo: BOC-PIAD).

The CIIS chief added all warehouse representatives present during their inspections were reminded that they have 15 days to provide proof of payment of duties and taxes covering the goods found.

High-grade ‘MJ’ found inside ‘balikbayan boxes’

At the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last February 27, 2024, the CIIS also informed Rubio and Uy of their interception of P76 million worth of high-grade (‘Kush’) marijuana concealed inside several ‘balikbayan boxes’ from Thailand.

MICP CIIS chief, Alvin Enciso, in his initial report, said they earlier received “derogatory information” that an attempt would be made to smuggle illegal drugs into the country using the MICP as the port of entry.

He added that together with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), they uncovered the illegal drugs inside 5 balikbayan boxes and two smaller boxes. He said the inventory yielded a total of 63.6 kilos of the contraband.

Informed of the development, MICP district collector Romeo Rosales immediately ordered the seizure of the shipment.

Rubio, for his part, also sent a congratulatory message to the team of Enciso for another job well done.

“Over the past year, the BOC has consistently demonstrated dedication in thwarting the infiltration of controlled substances across our borders.

“The commendable success of this operation sends a resounding message that we will not be stopped in our fight to protect the nation from the dangers of illegal drugs,” the customs chief said.

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