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Congress to probe P79-M cocaine smuggling in Isabela, 3 other places

The House of Representatives will look into the repeated cocaine trafficking by foreign drug syndicates here, specifically the offloading of P79.136 million worth of this drug off the waters of Isabela on February 5.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House committee on illegal drugs, said the inquiry was based on House Resolution No. 1674 filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas which directed the committee to investigate these incidents.

“Who are the drug syndicates or individuals responsible for dumping cocaine into our shores? Is this illegal drug intended for local consumption or are foreign drug syndicates just using the Philippines as a transshipment point to other destinations, or both?” Barbers asked.

“We need to know how Congress can help our anti-drug agencies cope with new skills and innovations being employed by seaborne drug smugglers, like appropriating funds for the acquisition of modern surveillance and tracking system,” he said.

Cocaine, one of the most dangerous drugs known to man, was initially developed as a painkiller. For thousands of years, people in South America have chewed and ingested coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca) the source of cocaine, for their stimulant effects.

Cocaine is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar enterprise, with users of all ages, occupations and economic levels, according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The NIDA said once a person begins taking cocaine, it has proven almost impossible to become free from its grip physically and mentally. Only higher dosages and more frequent use can bring about the same stimulant effect.

The 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the US State Department, said cocaine was rare in the Philippines due to high prices and limited demand.

Barbers, however, expressed alarm over reports of cocaine smuggling in other parts of the country wherein smugglers were forced to dump their contraband overboard to avoid detection by law enforcers. Fishermen later found the contraband on the shorelines.

In Isabela for instance, a cache of 18.84 kilos of cocaine valued at P79 million was found in the shorelines of Barangay Dipudo in Divilacan town on February 5. In Matnog, Sorsogon,  a package containing 24 kilos of cocaine worth P125 million was found in Juag Lagoon on January 3.  The cocaine found in both provinces were similarly packaged and had “R” markings.

On December 18, 2016,   18 bricks of cocaine worth P100-million were found floating about 100 meters off the shores of Tiwi, Albay, along Lagunoy Gulf.

In December 2009,  59 bricks of cocaine worth P300 million were found floating off the Leyte-Samar waters, particularly in the shorelines of Llorente, Balangkayan, San Policarpio and Maydolong towns in Eastern Samar.

“Some offices are supposed to be involved in the detection, monitoring, and interdiction of potential seaborne drug traffickers, but they appear to be sleeping on their jobs,” Barbers said.

“In these four similar incidents, it was the fishermen who recovered and reported these to authorities. There were no reports that the interdiction or recovery efforts were initiated by our authorities,” he added.

Aside from boldly sneaking cocaine in our many sea and airports, there are other schemes on how foreign drug syndicates smuggle cocaine into the country, according to Barbers said.

“In some instances, big time drug smugglers use foreign ships to sneak in their cargo, offload them near their target shores or pick-up points, to be picked up later by local contacts using smaller boats but equipped with GPS or global positioning system,” he said.

Barbers said that seaborne smugglers are sometimes forced to dump their waterproof contraband to avoid apprehension by authorities when things go wrong while at sea.

And when bad weather hit the ships, the illegal drug cargo would spill overboard and float in the sea until fishermen find these in the shorelines, he added. #