BOC busts P102-M smuggled marijuana, vapes in balikbayan boxes

April 3, 2024 People's Tonight 99 views

A PHYSICAL examination of several balikbayan boxes from Thailand resulted in the discovery of P102 million worth of suspected kush and smuggled vapes with cannabis content by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).

The shipment contained 200 balikbayan boxes, but five of them gave positive indication upon K9 sweeping by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) narcotic detection dog.

Upon inspection by the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS)-MICP agents, some 82 kilograms of suspected marijuana or kush and 1,881 pieces of disposable distillate vape pen with cannabis content were found.

“For Filipino families, balikbayan boxes symbolize their love and longing for their loved ones. Unfortunately, it is now being used by unscrupulous individuals to smuggle in illegal drugs, vapes, and many other items. Here in the BOC, we want to assure our kababayans that we’re working hard to get to the bottom of this,” Commissioner Bien Rubio said.

CIIS Director Verne Enciso cited that the physical examination on April 2, 2024 was the result of the alert order issued on February 28, 2024 after the CIIS-MICP received derogatory information about the shipment consigned to Marcelo D. Laylo Cargo Forwarders with the recipient listed as Gerard Cruz.

“There were 200 balikbayan boxes in the shipment. Out of those 200, our K9 dogs indicated that five balikbayan boxes may be positive for the presence of illegal substance. Upon opening these boxes, we found marijuana or kush and vapes with cannabis content,” he said.

The first balikbayan box contained 11 black pouches with approximately 500 grams of kush, 12 transparent pouches with another 500 grams, and two small boxes with 47 and 43 pieces of vapes, respectively.

In the second balikbayan box, the BOC agents found 12 transparent pouches with about 500 grams of kush, one small box with 47 pieces of vape, and one medium box with 782 pieces of vape.

The agents also opened the third balikbayan box. This yielded two medium boxes with 12 clear pouches of 500 grams of kush each and two small boxes with 45 pieces of vape in each box.

The fourth balikbayan box was found to have two medium boxes—the first one had 11 black pouches with 500 grams of kush, while the second one had 782 pieces of vape.

In the fifth balikbayan box, the agents discovered two medium boxes—the first one had 22 clear pouches and the second one had 72 clear pouches all with 500 grams of kush inside—and two small boxes with 45 pieces of vape in each.

After the inspection, the items were returned to the container van, which was then sealed and padlocked for safekeeping. These are scheduled for turnover to the PDEA after full inventory.

Deputy Commissioner for Customs Intelligence Group Juvymax Uy disclosed that the shipment was originally declared as consolidated balikbayan boxes and personal effects from Thailand before they were found with illegal drugs, misdeclared and undeclared items.

“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of what our officers do on the ground. This latest operation is a testament to that, as well as proof that our ongoing border security mission is disrupting the flow of these smuggled items, making it harder for these organizations to bend our laws to their will,” he said.

The consignees, senders, and recipients of the balikbayan boxes will possibly face charges in violation of Section 118 (prohibited importation and exportation) and Section 1400 (misdeclaration) in goods declaration in relation to Section 1113 (property subject to seizure and forfeiture) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).