X-rays for shipment have never detected drugs - Customs Commissioner

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 4) — None of the 30 X-ray machines in the ports of the  Bureau of Customs (BoC) all over the country have actually detected drugs, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said Friday.

"Since 2008 — when they were procured — until today, wala pa po siyang record na naka-detect siya ng drugs [there is no record of it detecting drugs]. So I'm worried about the capability of this," Faeldon told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He noted that the technology is old and possibly outdated.

Instead, the BoC relies on intelligence reports and coordination with countries of origin.

The agency facilitates the entry of shipments in over 30 ports across the nation.

It is under investigation by Congress for the smuggling of P6.4 billion in drugs that slipped through the BoC. Faeldon maintained that although he has "command responsibility," he was not personally involved in the incident.

Related: Senate alleges corruption, incompetence in Customs Bureau over biggest haul yet of shabu smuggled into PH

Faeldon revealed that the BoC's X-ray machines only have a maximum 16 percent capacity to scan shipments.

"So there's really [an] 84 percent chance of bringing into the country contraband that we cannot detect," he said. "We have to select the highest risk containers, the highest risk commodity... The rest, we cannot X-ray."

To fill in the gap, the BoC needs 20 more machines, which cost USD $2.5 million (P126 million) each.

But angry legislators on Wednesday threatened to give the BoC "zero budget,"  after Faeldon's Chief of Staff, Mandy Anderson, called House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an "imbecile" on her Facebook account for suggesting the abolition of the Court of Appeals.

"Kung harap-harapan, ganyan kayo manginsulto sa amin, ano pa ang karapatan niyo na lumapit sa amin para humingi ng budget? Hindi niyo nga magawa yung trabaho," said House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo said.

[Translation: If you insult us like that face to face, what right do you have to ask us for budget? You can't even do your job.]

Still, the commissioner is still keeping his fingers crossed that Congress will give them the money for the X-ray machines.

"I'm sure our legislators will see [those] weaknesses and I'm sure that they will put some budget to improve this capability, because at the end of the day, it's our country's borders that we are trying to protect," Faeldon said.

Some legislators earlier called for Faeldon's resignation, but President Rodrigo Duterte would not hear of it.

Related: Duterte backs Customs chief Faeldon, says Finance secretary