BOC: We were not trained to use imported x-ray machines during ₱6.8B drug shipment mess

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A customs official said most of the x-ray inspectors operating the machines that let a billion-peso shabu shipment slip through the country, were untrained. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — Amid the ₱6.8B drug shipment controversy, a customs official disputed that the x-ray providers were not able to give operators the proper training in using the machines.

Lourdes Mangaoang, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Deputy Collector for Operations, said x-ray operators must be trained by the suppliers since x-ray machines operate under various systems. 

"Dapat may special skills and technical training sila from the supplier. Sa ngayon maraming walang training from the supplier," Mangaoang said.

[Translation: The operators must have special skills and training form the supplier. As of now, a lot of  operators do not have training form the supplier.]

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, questioned the marketing team of Nuctech, the company that supplied the x-ray machines that allegedly screened the drug shipment.

The manager, identified as Mr. Gaopeng, said their contract with the BOC stated that they provide training only upon request. Mangaoang declined to comment on this.

"According to the contract the training will be delivered after handover project...and if they ask to deliver training we will give that," he said. 

Mangaoang also presented x-ray images of the scanned magnetic lifters that were suspected to contain drugs.  She said magnetic lifters would have to be subjected to physical examination should they appear to contain hollow or empty areas within them. This would mean items could be hidden in these areas. 

The x-rays, which Nuctech claimed were strong enough to penetrate the size of the suspected lifters under their radar, could not explicitly indicate if they contained drugs, just spaces where items can be hidden, Mangaoang explained. 

The BOC deputy also disputed that magnetic lifters are used and delivered in complete sets, accompanied by parts such as a crane. The lifters in question were shipped separately.

Gordon asked the x-ray team why they allowed the delivery of magnetic lifters with incomplete parts and why these were not physically examined upon delivery.

"Namimili ang gobyerno ng overpriced machines tapos papalusutin niyo pa?" The senator questioned. 

[Translation: The government is spending for overpriced machines and you would let these shipments slip through?]

The BOC's x-ray team instead presented their own versions of the x-ray scans of the lifters. They said these did not contain the alleged package of drugs. 

"Approximately 88 packages of shabu inside this magnetic lifter. If it would register, the much darker than this. This is brown with some blackish and we don't believe that these pseudo colors really answer for the shabu inside because it will be dark wall throughout," x-ray inspector John Mar Morales said. 

Morales maintained that he could not have overlooked if the lifters had contained any drugs.