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Essential elements

NATIONAL security and public order are essential elements in building the foundation for “inclusive growth, a high-trust society and a globally competitive knowledge economy,” states the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan.

“That is why the government must upgrade the capability of law enforcers to drastically reduce criminality, terrorism and ensure the safety and security of all people in the country,” said Atty. Ramon Cuyco, a trade security expert and retired bureau of customs official.

Cuyco said President Duterte, in his 2nd State of the Nation Address, emphasized that the war on drugs shall be unrelenting. He said, “the problem on illegal drugs needs a holistic approach because illegal drugs is prevalent in the country with around four million drug users and 47 percent of barangays throughout the country being drug-affected (PDEA, 2016). Three illegal transnational drug groups of African, Chinese, and Mexican Sinaloa origin are operating in the country and have greatly aggravated the drug problem.”

According to him, the country’s growing illegal drugs problem in particular needs a determined and proactive solution. “Successive researches and pertinent crime statistics in the Philippines show a strong and direct correlation between crimes, especially serious or violent ones, and drug abuse. Any serious campaign to fight crime should therefore also involve a resolute crusade to stamp out drug abuse. This is a tough challenge.”

As it is, the Philippines may either be an origin, a transit point, a destination or a combination thereof. Her intelligence community states that the country is all of the above—origin-transit-destination. And because we are archipelagic, ingress and egress of illicit drugs are coursed through her ports and airports. This is where her vulnerabilities are most felt.

Customs enforcement

Who is going to watch aircrafts and seacrafts is a task reposed on the customs-immigration-quarantine security agencies and together, they constitute what is called as “the boarding party.”

Unfortunately, the unmolested entry of the Php6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs last May 26, 2017, among the many that were allegedly undetected, puts serious doubts on the capability of the country’s border control management.

Quizzed by the Philippine Senate last 31 July 2017, former customs chief Nicanor Faeldon, admitted that “[t]he flow of illegal drugs through the country’s seaports could not be contained as the current X-ray system of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is capable of handling only 16 percent of all imports arriving in the country through the Manila International Container Port (MICP).”

Faeldon told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probers that “the chance of shabu being smuggled into the country is 84 percent with the limitation of the X-ray system.” As if to stress the helplessness of the country’s border controls, Faeldon “warned senators that another 500 kilos of shabu are expected to be unloaded in the Philippines that we cannot detect.”

If manifestly anti-social goods could be entered into the customs territory undetected, or even if detected, they are unmolested, how convenient would it be for shipments that would not incite suspicions due to their regular appearance or packaging, say, boxes of illegal drugs packaged as fake grapes mixed with boxes of real grapes stuffed into a container of imported fruits?

Or, anti-social goods coursed through “green lane” of the customs risk management system? Or, even through the “super green lane” or what is now known as the “blue lane” of its selectivity screens? That the latter is accessible and available only to some 200 pre-registered top corporations is no guarantee that anti-social goods—drugs, firearms, or other weapons of mass destructions – may pass through this “free way” of sort.

As has already happened, or is still happening, the country is a sitting duck!

About Cecilio Arillo

Cecilio T. Arillo, a veteran author-journalist. He taught undergraduate and MBA interdisciplinary studies at International Academy of Management & Economics and was president of the Philcoman Council of Management and Research Institute. Arillo is a member of the American Economic Association, the American Sociological Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Philconsa and lifetime member of National Press Club. He is also a columnist at the BusinessMirror, the Philippines' top business newspaper.

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