• COUNTRY PLACED AT CENTER OF US DRUG WATCH

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    THE United States (US) government has placed the Philippines at the center of its anti-narcotics operation in Asia following reports that notorious drug rings that used to sell drugs only in the West have found their way to the East through their Chinese counterparts.

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    In fact, a high-ranking United States government official is credited for the recent bust in Lipa City of a drug syndicate composed of members of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel and local drug lords of Chinese descent.

    Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) public information office director Derrick Carreon on Friday said US Ambassador William Brownfield, assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), gave the information to them that the Mexicans were planning to smuggle drugs to Asian countries with the Philippines as transshipment point.

    Brownfield was in Manila and gave a briefing on the world drug situation, Carreon said. The US diplomat’s office actually sponsored the establishment of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA-IADITG).

    “Although we had received intelligence reports about the possible entry of the Mexican drug cartel here long before, it was during Ambassador Brownfield’s visit that we came to realize that the threat was real. It was further validated when we finally conducted the raid in Lipa City,” the PDEA official said. He was referring to the Christmas Day raid on a Leviste-owned ranch in Batangas where government agents seized 84 kilos of high-grade methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

    Carreon said he was among those present during Brownfield’s briefing and he actually facilitated the US envoy’s visit.

    Unified
    Quoting the US envoy, he said they were warned that “the problem might get worse before it gets better” if government agencies will not act in unison against illegal drugs.

    Brownfield stressed that the fight against illegal drugs should be a unified effort and that all countries, especially the Philippines, must learn to adapt to the new methods of drug syndicates such as the recently discovered “joint venture” between the Sinaloans and Chinese drug traffickers.

    The US official had confirmed that since it is located at the “center of the West and the East,” the Philippines serves as a vital role in the distribution in Asia of drugs that were not sold in the US.

    “We should work together to strengthen the ability in producer nations. We should work with the governments of the producer nations to help them eradicate and eliminate the production and we should work together to support efforts to interdict the flow of drugs through the transit countries and this is very much what this program here at the international airport is all about—interrupting the flow of drugs to the Philippines as a market for these drugs as a transit country on its way to other countries in the world,” Brownfield said during the briefing.

    As head of the INL, Brownfield advises US President Barack Obama, the Secretary of State, other bureaus in the Department of State, and other departments and agencies on the development of policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime.

    According to the US State department’s website, INL programs support two of the Department’s strategic goals: (1) to reduce the entry of illegal drugs into the United States; and (2) to minimize the impact of international crime on the United States and its citizens.

    “Counternarcotics and anticrime programs also complement counterterrorism efforts, both directly and indirectly, by promoting modernization of and supporting operations by foreign criminal justice systems and law enforcement agencies charged with the counter-terrorism mission,” it further said.

    A career Foreign Service Officer, Brownfield was Ambassador to Colombia from August 2007 to September 2010. Prior to arriving in Colombia, Brownfield was Ambassador to Venezuela, and before that Chile.

    No more rivalry
    Carreon, meanwhile, explained that while they get direct fund support from Brownfield’s office, actual drug operations are coordinated with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which helped the PDEA, the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (AID-SOTF), the military and other law enforcement agencies in the successful operation against the Lipa City-based syndicate.

    To date, the NAIA-IADITG, an inter-agency collaboration led by PDEA to control the flow of illegal drugs through the NAIA complex, has arrested four drug couriers who yielded a total of P103 million worth of shabu and cocaine.

    “PDEA Director General [Arturo] Cacdac shares the view of Ambassador Brownfield that solving the problem on illegal drugs cannot be done by us alone. In fact, no agency can do it by itself. The problem, according to DG [Cacdac, can only be solved by all agencies of government acting together as one,” Carreon said.

    “He wanted to do away with what seemed to be a rivalry among anti-drug agencies before. This time, all law enforcement agencies and even the general public should participate because as Ambassador Brownfield had warned, the problem might get worse even before it gets better,” he added.

    Carreon further disclosed that Cacdac had ordered “to replicate” the NAIA-IADITG in all major airports in the country to intensify the crackdown on the entry of illegal drugs.

    “With the support of the US government and by utilizing our own resources probably, DG Cacdac wants to establish similar units this year in Clark, Davao and Cebu. Also, we have strengthened collaboration with the Bureau of Customs and even the Philippine Coast Guard which recently provided PDEA with K-9 units,” he said.

    Corruption
    During his briefing, Brownfiled also took note of corruption among some law enforcement agencies and government officials as one of the challenges they face. However, he maintained that corruption is not endemic in the Philippines and is, in fact, a problem in any other country.

    “Does corruption have an impact on narcotics trafficking? Of course it does, but it’s not a Philippine issue. That is an issue of every country in the world, all 194 countries who are represented in the UN, can attest that corruption has an impact on the trafficking of drugs or any illegal product,” he said.

    Brownfield also said that the task force concept has proved effective against drug trafficking as he cited PDEA’s role in the over-all coordination of the country’s interdiction operations.

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