By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

Shabu (Photo courtesy of Bohol Provincial Police Office)

MANILA – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) have strengthened their partnership to combat shipments of illegal drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs) to Philippine territory.

PDEA Director General Undersecretary Moro Virgilio Lazo and PCG commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) at the PDEA national headquarters in Quezon City on Friday.

“Both parties have agreed to hold regular meetings for the purpose of discussing operational matters, the current status of the programs, the formulation of necessary strategies to facilitate the accomplishments of the MoA’s objectives, and exchange best practices and knowledge on drug smuggling, transportation and transshipment through seminar-workshops,” Lazo said in a Saturday news release.

Under the agreement, PDEA shall establish a comprehensive information collection plan to obtain information on illegal drug activities from sources at all levels, and shall take the lead role in narcotics investigation and the conduct of anti-drug operations.

The PCG, for its part, shall assist the PDEA in gathering, collecting, processing, and analyzing information to prevent the entry of illegal drugs through the coastlines.

“The MOA also paved the way for the deputization of PDEA personnel to join PCG in enforcement inspections of merchant ships and vessels within the ambit of its lawful authority,” Lazo said.

PDEA had previously sealed pacts with government agencies to address maritime security challenges, thus creating a culture that facilitates a whole-of-government approach to prevent Philippine waters from becoming transit and dropping points for large volumes of illegal drugs.

To curb the shipment, delivery and transportation of illegal drugs and CPECs using the ports and high seas, PDEA has established interdiction units assigned in key seaports nationwide, and entered into agreements with the Philippine Ports Authority and the Maritime Industry Authority. (PNA)