Modernization of maritime units vs. drug smuggling begins

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

February 17, 2019, 8:37 pm

MANILA -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) has started the modernization of its maritime units in a bid to enhance its capability to combat seaborne illegal drugs smuggling.

PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said part of the modernization is to purchase more motorized patrol boats and recruitment and training of additional personnel for maritime operations.

"We are modernizing our maritime group. We have procurement last year and there will be a portion of our 2019 budget that will be allocated for the capability enhancement," Albayalde told reporters on Saturday.

At present, Albayalde said various border patrol agreements with the Philippines’ neighbor countries complement the PNP’s limited sea assets to patrol open seas.

"Notwithstanding our bilateral agreements with Indonesia and with Malaysia, there are continuous border patrols. It has dual purposes, against illegal drugs and against terrorism," Albayalde said.

For his part, Chief Supt. Rodelio Jocson, director of the PNP Maritime Group, said procurement of 28 gunboats have been approved last year with seven of them already delivered while the remaining 21 expected to be turned over this year.

Jocson said additional 18 gunboats will be also purchased this year to significantly improve the PNP’s maritime capability.

He said the PNP’s Maritime Group has also acquired several drones to bolster its operations against drug smugglers.

"The procurement of drones comes with the construction of drone centers and training of drone pilots," said Jocson.

Despite the modernization of the maritime unit’s capabilities, Jocson admitted that guarding the country's coastlines remain a big challenge.

The Philippines, he said, is the fifth country in the world with the longest coastlines, making it difficult to totally seal off the country from smuggling activities, particularly for drugs.

Albayalde earlier said the Philippines is a favorite transient point of international drugs syndicates due to the country’s long coastlines.

Last week, a total of 88 bricks of cocaine were reportedly recovered off the waters of Dinagat Island and Surigao del Norte. (PNA)