HUNDREDS of plastic drums of hydrochloric acid, one of the components in the manufacture of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu,” were found without import permit by authorities at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) sub-port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, said Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Northern Mindanao.

In BOC-Northern Mindanao examiners' report, the 320 drums from India containing the chemical entered the local port on February 1.

In an interview, Alvin Enciso, officer-in-charge of the BOC-Northern Mindanao Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), said the shipment contained “a dangerous chemical” and “is one of the essential elements or chemicals used in making ‘shabu.’”

It was examined last February 14 and witnessed by the broker’s representative, officers from the CIIS, BOC’s Enforcement Security Service, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives.

According to Customs officials, the shipment was a “restricted or regulated good without import permit or clearance.”

In a memorandum to MCT port collector Datu Samson Pacasum, Janefa Dianalan, BOC-Northern Mindanao assigned examiner, has recommended for the issuance of warrant of seizure and detention “against the above mentioned shipment in view of the failure of the consignee to secure and present the essential import permits/licenses” which violated provisions of Customs laws.

BOC-Northern Mindanao identified the items’ consignee as Juchem Enterprises based in Butuan City, which it said failed to secure and submit necessary import documents.

Enciso said the result of the initial examination conducted on the shipment last February 14 showed a discrepancy of the consignee’s failure to present the import permit.

Prior to the arrival of the shipment, Enciso said, PDEA has tipped off the BOC that hydrochloric acid from abroad will be entering the local port, prompting the Customs to tighten its watch on incoming goods.

“We strengthened our monitoring and we discovered that four container vans with hydrochloric acid coming from India,” he said.

He said the owner of Juchem Enterprises appeared before his office and claimed that they do know that the shipped chemical is regulated.

The imported shipment has violated PDEA, Dangerous Drug Board, Food and Drugs Administration and Department of Environment and Natural Resources regulations, as well as Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which strictly disallows imported and regulated items without corresponding import permits, Enciso said.

The consignees, he added, told Customs that the chemical will be supplied to a mining company, but PDEA and CIIS are still verifying where it will actually be used.

“We also intend to visit the company or companies where they claimed they are supplying the chemicals so we would know where exactly they are using the chemicals,” Enciso said.

“But, just the same, PDEA is preparing to file cases against this importer,” Enciso added.

If it will be used to manufacture “shabu,” Enciso said the chemical could produce hundreds of millions pesos worth of illegal drugs.

Nasrudin Guro, chief of the BOC-Northern Mindanao Assessment Division, said prior to importation of the items, there must be clearance from PDEA and Food and Drugs Authority.

“We found out that upon entry (of the shipment) there was none (import permit). So, we recommended for the issuance of warrant of seizure and Detention (WSD) of the shipment. For now, they have to present all the necessary papers to the legal department. We have already endorsed it (shipment) for WSD,” Guro said.