Manila, July 21, 2003 By Non Alquitran (Star) They are turning their eyes to the sea and all docking points along the coast.

Agents of the Philippine National Police (PNP) task force on illegal drugs are now watching the country’s seaports and coastlines like hawks, amid reports that transnational drug syndicates have reverted to their modus operandi of smuggling illicit drugs through the country’s porous ports and coastal areas.

While the PNP Anti-Drugs and Special Operations Task Force (AID-SOTF) is busy checking piers, fishing villages and remote beaches, the men of National Capital Region Police Office chief Deputy Director General Reynaldo Velasco are asking warehouse owners and property holders to conduct weekly inspections of their establishments to prevent these storehouses from being used as factories or storage places by drug syndicates.

AID-SOTF chief and PNP Deputy Director General Edgar Aglipay has dispatched his men to piers in Cebu, Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales and Batangas to prevent the entry of illicit drugs, particularly shabu, through these ports.

"It appears that the shabu syndicates shifted their operations (to) the coastlines, seaports, abandoned piers and seldom-used beaches, but we are on the alert for them," Aglipay said in an interview.

It is common knowledge that these drug rings used coastal areas in the past to smuggle illegal drugs into the country and would misdeclare their cargo, or engage in shipside smuggling on the high seas to get their illegal cargo ashore past the authorities.

Law enforcers were tipped off about the drug rings’ reversion to their old modus operandi and the police confiscated large quantities of shabu as a result. The biggest haul so far was approximately 500 kilos of shabu in Quezon province — an operation that also resulted in the arrest of a town mayor.

The seizure of large shipments of shabu prompted transnational drug rings to set up clandestine shabu laboratories in the country, which cost less and are hard to detect, said Superintendent Nelson Yabut, one of the AID-SOTF team leaders.

Government operatives then began busting these shabu laboratories — the most recent busts took place in Cavite province, Las Piñas City, Parañaque City and Quezon City.

While Aglipay’s men are running after Benito Sy and his associates, who are believed to be behind the operations of the four busted shabu laboratories, the supply of shabu in Metro Manila and the rest of the country has dropped.

To fill the void, the drug syndicates have reverted to smuggling shabu into the country.

Aglipay said he was tipped off by an insider about this shift in operation and has ordered a round-the-clock watch on all seaports and coastlines of the country. "Whether they shift their operations or not, we are prepared to arrest and bring (drug traffickers) before the bar of justice."

The Philippines has one of the longest coastlines in the world, measuring approximately 17,461.3824 kilometers — which even the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine Navy (PN) are hard put to secure.

Yabut said the minimum shipment smuggled into the Philippines by these illegal drug syndicates using the old modus operandi is at least 100 kilos. He added that the drug rings can double the amount smuggled into the country, but that illegal drug shipments of this size are more easily detected.

Aglipay has ordered a nationwide manhunt for Sy and his associate, Jackson Ty. The government has not offered any reward yet for the capture of Sy, who also goes by the name Benito Sze in the Chinese community.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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