DRUG WAR AT SEAPORTS: Intensified war-on-drugs on sea ports in Iloilo

A LABORER lays concrete pavers at the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex, Feb. 7, 2019. An interagency task group will bring the war on drugs to seaports of Western Visayas. (Ricky D. Alejo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Region 6 is bringing the war on illegal drug peddlers to their favourite entry points – the seaports.

During the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on the creation of the Seaport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (SIADITG-VI) on Feb 7, 2019, PDEA regional director Alex Tablate said illegal drugs could only reach Iloilo and the region either through the airport or seaports.

“One of the biggest challenge natin like any other regions natin is yung topography ng isla kasi dalawa lang talaga pwede daanan ng droga, its either through airports or sea ports,” he said.

Despite relentless efforts of different law enforcement units, some transient drug peddlers from Mindanao, Central Visayas, and Luzon continue to elude authorities.

“They seem to be maximizing our usual routes and other possible ingress especially our vast coastlines,” Tablate lamented.

Tablate underscored the challenge posed by illegal drug peddlers, particularly in adopting innovations and strategies.

“With the initial salvo that the different local enforcement units (LEUs) have initiated resulting in the arrest of high-valued targets (HVTs) and the conduct of HIOs (high impact operations) which indeed made a difference, it is also high time now for us to adopt initiatives and measures in protecting and safeguarding our port of entries so that our presence in these areas would somehow deter these drug peddlers from penetrating our region,” he stressed.

With the creation of the task group, Tablete said they are confident in scoring more apprehensions.

“We expect more apprehensions and sa mga upcoming activities and mas madali na yung mobilization ng mga tao. Magiging regular ang trabaho kasi indi lang naman about actual operations na maghuhulihan tayo. Ang presence pa lang ng mga operatives napakalaking bagay na as deterrent sa mga nagbabalak na gagagawa ng kalokohan dito sa Iloilo,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo City government headed by Mayor Jose Espinosa III lauded the creation of the task group.

“With the new cooperation of the different agencies involved, we can interdict the illegal drugs that are trying to pass through the shores of our ports in Iloilo,” Espinosa said during the MOA signing.

The SIADITG-VI is  composed of the following agencies: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 6 , Bureau of Customs VI, Coast Guard District Western Visayas, Philippine National Police (PNP)-Regional Maritime Unit 6, Maritime Industry Authority Region 6, Philippine Port Authority, PMO-PNG, National Intelligence Coordination Agency 6 and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-6).

The task group is expected to develop strategy to deter and prevent the entry of syndicates/recruiters and suspicious personalities and parcel cargoes within main ports of Region 6, especially at the Iloilo International Port at Brgy. Loboc, Lapuz, Iloilo City.

Moreover, concerned agencies are also mandated to develop and execute programs and strategies towards closer coordination among the local and international agencies in combating the international drug trafficking syndicates using the country’s identified ingress in their illegal drug activities.

Based on the MOA, the parties shall also conduct joint anti-drug operations among all member agencies f the task group against illegal drug personalities, organization and activities within the area of responsibilities as well as other areas within the region as may deem necessary.