PDEA mulls inter-agency body vs. drug smuggling in private ports

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

June 21, 2019, 9:49 am

<p>PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino. (File photo)

MANILA -- The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is taking proactive measures in preventing the use of private airstrips and ports as entry and exit points of illegal drugs.

According to PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino, unmanned runways and private ports have become favorite landing spots for private airplanes, seaplanes and even yachts, loaded with bulk of illegal drugs.

The country has more than 1,200 private ports.

“International drug syndicates are capable of using private aircraft, including helicopters and seaplanes, and boats and yachts as modes of transportation to fly and land drug contraband using these privately-owned facilities,” Aquino said in a statement Friday.

The PDEA chief raised the concern as this was the foremost agenda discussed during the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) Enforcement Cluster Meeting held on June 18 at the PDEA Conference Room, PDEA National Headquarters in Quezon City.

The cluster meeting was attended by 21 member-agencies of the government.

PDEA is pushing for the establishment of an inter-agency drug interdiction task group to synchronize efforts in sealing off possible smuggling points in the country, particularly the privately-run airstrips, heliports, and seaports.

To address the interdiction challenges and strict monitoring and inspection of said facilities, PDEA, together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Maritime Group, PNP Aviation Security Group, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Immigration (BI), Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Office for Transportation Security (OTS), and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), will form the task group.

“Before, drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are shipping tons of illegal drugs, either finished products or raw materials, through shipside smuggling in the high seas, airports and seaports. But now, they have included in their itineraries unmanned landing strips and private ports as drug transit routes,” Aquino said.

“Airstrips have no airport facilities that is why proper documentation of the name of the arriving passenger/s, cargo details, among others, remains a problem. There is also a possibility that foreign chemists flew in and out of the country via the backdoor using the runways and open seas,” he added.

The PDEA chief said that illegal drugs can reach the country’s shores through seaplanes and small sea vessels, including boats and yachts.

“DTOs reportedly dumped their contrabands overboard to be retrieved later by their local contacts using nets delivered in nearby coastal areas,” he said.

To curb drug smuggling through the ports and high seas, PDEA has established seaport interdiction units assigned in 13 key seaports nationwide, and has entered into agreements with the PPA, PCG and MARINA, which empowered the inspection of all maritime transportation in the country’s 1,200 private seaports.

“We are dealing the problem on drug smuggling by covering every possible trafficking routes and patterns: by land, air and sea.,” the PDEA chief noted. (PNA)