US gov't concludes training of 11 Bureau of Customs officers in Clark, Pampanga

Published June 16, 2021, 4:44 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) have just concluded a two-day training program for 11 Filipino customs officers at the Port of Clark in Pampanga to help them further strengthen their capability to secure their jurisdictions from illegal and dangerous cargoes.

Trainers and participants kick off with the International Air Cargo Interdiction Training at the Port of Clark in Pampanga from June 15 to 16. (United States Embassy Manila)

Held from June 15 to 16, the International Air Cargo Interdiction Training (IACIT) is a program that followed a hybrid format due to the COVID-19 pandemic where US trainers participated virtually while the participants joined from a hotel conference venue, ensuring a fluid engagement with all the participants.

Clark Customs Port Collector Alexandra Lumontad joined the opening session to deliver welcome remarks.

“This is a gathering of people who are entrusted with the very sensitive task of securing our borders from illegal and dangerous cargoes that pass through areas of jurisdiction,” said Lumontad.

The IACIT, according to a US Embassy statement, aims to enhance the skills of customs air cargo officers at interdicting contraband and other illicit goods in an airport environment. The training program will also include an advanced workshop with several practical exercises at an air cargo facility once travel restrictions are lifted.

An iteration of the IACIT is scheduled on June 17 and 18 at the Manila International Airport for customs officers from the Philippine Bureau of Customs.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) led in the convening of the Philippines’ first National Substance Use Science Policy and Information Forum on Tuesday, June 15.

(United States Embassy in Manila)

In collaboration with the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines, the Asian Center for Drug Policy, the University of the Philippines Manila, and other partners, the forum was able to gather over 1,800 participants in the first-of-its-kind virtual forum with the theme “Substance Use in the Philippines: Governance, Research, and Practice”.

The forum provided a venue for researchers, health practitioners, and drug policy leaders to:

  • present existing evidence in the Philippines on health-centered effective strategies and interventions on the prevention, treatment, and care for people affected by drug use and drug use disorders;
  • facilitate the discourse and agreement of the scientific community from different disciplines on a five-year research agenda;
  • and present the scientific community’s evidence-based policy recommendations to national and local policymakers.
  • Several national and international leaders provided remarks to open the forum, including U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law, Philippine Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and UN Resident Coordinator for the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez.
  • Participants represented faculty and students of educational institutions, public health advocates, health researchers, national government agencies, non-governmental organizations, professional organizations, anti-drug abuse councils, the recovering community, and national and local policymakers.
  • Presenters identified major challenges, including the emergence of new substances and the expansion of drug trade networks; a lack of studies and inadequate understanding of the root causes and drivers of substance use; and limited access to preventative and treatment services and facilities.
  • Conference leaders also noted a need for increased stakeholder engagement and multisectoral collaboration, holistic and person-centered approaches, and evidence-based research that considers the root causes of substance use, in efforts to strengthen policy and governance mechanisms on prevention, treatment, recovery and reintegration of persons who use drugs.
  • Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes highlighted DDB’s aim to support and sustain this type of multi-sectoral collaboration. Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri meanwhile underscored the need to institutionalize local government and community level support to address the challenges presented by illegal drugs.