Monday, May 20, 2019

Wenceslao: Shipside smuggling

THIS is the reason why the scourge of illegal drugs in the country can’t be eliminated in six months, like what was promised in the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections by then candidate Rodrigo Duterte. How can the drug trade be eliminated in a jiffy when drugs can be brought into the country a number of ways, or as in the case of the mega shabu factory raided in Mandaue City years ago, can be manufactured here?

Some 77 cocaine bricks with an estimated worth of P540 million recently washed ashore in Dinagat and Siargao islands. That’s cocaine and not merely shabu.”We believe that the strings used to tie the cocaine blocks recovered in Dinagat and Siargao islands broke loose, thus the blocks were washed ashore,” Caraga Police Regional Director Gilberto Cruz said.

Caraga Administrative Region, or Region XIII, is composed of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur and Dinagat islands. Siargao is an island in Surigao del Norte.

Cruz said the cocaine must have been brought into the country through “shipside smuggling,” a method whereby packages of contraband are dropped to the sea from large ships and then picked up by smaller sea vessels that bring them to the contraband’s destination in the country, or in the hands of drug syndicates.

Which only means that, because the country is an archipelago with a little more than 7,000 islands each of which are surrounded by the sea, it would be almost impossible to cover all bases, to use a baseball analogy. This is more so because of the advances in technology, with GPS (global positioning system) in the hands of even ordinary people.

This, plus the usual smuggling activities through our ports and airports expands the ability of traders of illegal drugs to bring the items into the country. Billions of pesos worth of drugs have already been discovered to have gone through our ports despite Bureau of Customs efforts. We don’t know if some daring drug syndicates have also successfully manufactured illegal drugs here. This is not impossible considering what happened in Mandaue years ago.

The war against illegal drugs is necessarily a protracted one and needs the cooperation of everybody. Apparently, the killing of thousands of people suspected to be in the illegal drug trade have also been ineffective against it. The illegal drug traders adjusted in due time and are still engaging in the trade because of the seemingly endless supply of the commodity. Cutting off the supply pipeline is therefore the key, but that is also difficult.

This is also a problem in other countries. I saw on cable TV a series that chronicled how authorities in other countries are constantly finding ways to stop the smuggling of illegal drugs in airports. I don’t think there is a TV series about smuggling of illegal drugs through the ports, but that could as well be filmed here in the country.

Authorities may need to go back to the drawing boards in the fight against illegal drugs.


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