Police authorities intercepted two shuttle vans transporting 134 master cases of contraband cigarettes, culminating in the apprehension of four individuals Wednesday afternoon at a checkpoint set up along the national highway in Brgy. Inagawan in Puerto Princesa City.

The apprehended individuals were identified as Calino Hapon Hamid and Rajik Jamion HJ Tahil, both drivers, Tansoy Oda Khu Mohammad Butuan, and Lemuel Bacling Agustin, all residents of Brgy. Rio Tuba, Bataraza, in southern Palawan.

The City Police Station 2 (PS2) and the City Mobile Force Company (CMFC) set up a roadblock and seized the smuggled cigarettes, worth an estimated P16 million. The confiscated brands are Fort, New Berlin, and Souvenir.

Currently, they are coordinating with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to dispose of the seized items properly.

Earlier this month, PS2 personnel also arrested two individuals for smuggling 107 cartons of untaxed cigarettes worth an estimated P4.2 million.

Abdul Malik Mahajuddin Jayari, 27, the driver of the shuttle van transporting the smuggled tobacco products, and Gulam Mohammad Butungan, 32, both of Bataraza, were apprehended on April 2 in Brgy. Luzviminda, also in Puerto Princesa City.

The suspects informed investigators that the illicit cigarettes were destined for the city and municipalities in northern Palawan.

Cigarette smuggling in Palawan has been a persistent problem for many years. Due to its proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, it has become a strategic location for smugglers to bring in contraband cigarettes, which are often sold at lower prices compared to those legally imported or locally produced.

They are rampant in Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Espanola, Rizal, Quezon, Narra, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, San Vicente, and Taytay, as well as in the islands of Cuyo and Linapacan.

The smugglers often use small boats or vans to transport them, which are then distributed to retailers across the province. Smuggled cigarettes in municipalities are often sold in public markets, sari-sari stores, and other small retail outlets.

The government, particularly the BOC, has been tasked to combat cigarette smuggling in the province through the implementation of various measures.

These include the strengthening of checkpoints and border patrols and the conduct of intelligence gathering and investigations to identify and apprehend smugglers.

Despite these efforts, cigarette smuggling still persists, as smugglers continue to find ways to evade detection and enforcement.