By Chito Chavez
To ensure that all bases are covered, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) conducted simultaneous surprise mandatory drug tests on Monday not only on bus drivers and conductors in bus terminals, but also in airports and seaports nationwide, to ensure public safety as roads and ports will be packed with travelers for the Holy Week break.
PDEA agents and drug-sniffing K-9s swept bus terminals, airports and seaports in a bid to detect illegal drugs in the belongings of the passengers.
PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the agency implemented “OPLAN: “HULI WEEK”, in coordination with other government agencies as part of the agency’s holistic approach in reducing the demand for illegal drugs, promoting drug-free workplaces, harm-reduction and reformation.
“We are also doing this to curb incidents of vehicular accidents caused by drugged drivers and make the roads safer, especially this Lenten Season’s travel rush,” Aquino said.
On Monday (April 15) and Tuesday (April 16), PDEA, in coordination with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), will inspect and conduct drug tests at the Five Star Bus Terminal, DLTB Bus Terminal PHILTRANCO Bus Terminal, and JAM Bus Terminal, all in Pasay City; and Quezon City’s Araneta Center Bus Port, Araneta Center Bus Terminal, Bicol Isarog Bus Terminal, Raymond Bus Terminal, Dela Rosa Bus Terminal, Partas Bus Terminal, Five Star Bus Terminal, ES Transport Bus Terminal, Florida Bus Terminal, JAC Bus Terminal, Victory Liner Terminal, Dagupan Bus Terminal, DLTB Bus Terminal, and JAM Bus Terminal.
PDEA, with the assistance of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), also swept the country’s high-risk airports and major seaports for illegal drugs using its K9 units.
“Any driver who refuses to undergo the mandatory drug test will be reported to the LTO. To those tested positive for drug use, their driver’s licenses will be withheld pending the issuance of clearance by the PDEA. They must undergo the rehabilitation process before reclaiming their licenses,” Aquino said.
Personnel of PDEA’s Preventive Education and Community Involvement Service (PECIS) were also present to perform on-site counselling, and help facilitate the rehabilitative treatment of drivers found positive for illegal drugs, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH).
“There is a prevailing practice of illegal drug use among provincial bus drivers because of the nature of their work. They use dangerous drugs to stay awake, or counter fatigue, especially those driving the long haul or overnight,” he added.
PDEA, in coordination with LTO and LTFRB, conducted its first ever simultaneous surprise mandatory drug test to bus drivers and K9 sweeping in the country’s major bus terminals, high-risk airports and seaports on October 29 to 31, 2018 under OPLAN: “UNDASPOT”.
Out of the 1,691 drivers who were subjected to the drug test, 15, or 0.88 percent, were found positive for use of illegal drugs.
Last March 29, OPLAN: “HARABAS” (Drug Test Muna Bago Pasada) was conducted in major PUV terminals nationwide.
A total of 4,469 bus, tricycle, UV Express, taxi, and jeepney drivers have submitted themselves for drug testing, with 50, or 1.12 percent, yielded positive results for drug use.
PDEA also implemented OPLAN: “HULI WEEK” to conduct surprise K9 sweeping operations to detect concealed illegal drugs in various bus and van terminals, and high-risk airports and major seaports across the country. Illegal drug traffickers may take advantage of the bustling activity surrounding these passenger terminals to transport illegal drugs.
PDEA Regional Offices also conducted OPLAN: “HULI WEEK” in their respective areas of responsibility with the support of concerned government agencies.
During the surprise drug tests, and K9 sweeps, PDEA distributed drug preventive information, education and communication (IEC) materials to the travelers to help them more aware of the ill effects of dangerous drugs.
“While the rest of the nation observes Holy Week, OPLAN: “HULI WEEK” is our humble contribution in keeping our traveling kababayans and the roads safer during these solemn times,” the PDEA chief said.
OPLAN: “HULI WEEK” was implemented in accordance to the provisions of Republic Act No.10586, or the “Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013”, or “An Act Penalizing Persons Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Dangerous Drugs, and Similar Substances, and for Other Purposes.