MANILA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said on Tuesday that it has noted a significant increase in the number of incidents of trafficking of illicit drugs using mail and parcel courier services.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said that in 2018 his office has intercepted a total of 35 incidents involving foreign express delivery and domestic courier services to transport illicit drugs, an increase of 775 percent from four incidents in 2017.
Aquino said 672 million pesos (roughly 13 million U.S. dollars) worth of illegal drugs, including 94.67 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride, 16,713 ecstasy tablets and 1,109.5 grams of marijuana kush sent through foreign and domestic courier services, were intercepted in 2018.
Moreover, Aquino said PDEA also arrested a total of 1,612 high-value targets in the past year, among them 43 government employees, 57 elected officials and 15 uniformed personnel as well as 53 foreigners.
"Smuggling of dangerous drugs through courier services is one of the modus/means used by drug syndicates to ensure the supply of illegal drugs in the country," Aquino said in a statement.
Out of the interdiction operations conducted, Aquino said 27 were interception of packages containing illegal drugs that originated from California, the United States, he added.
The PDEA established three Airport Interdiction Units, three International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Groups, and 12 Seaport Interdiction Units in its regional office in order to address drug smuggling using vulnerable seaports and airports in the country, he added.
Since 2015, Aquino said the total estimated market value of illegal drugs concealed inside packages that were intercepted by PDEA, with the support of local law enforcement agencies and foreign counterparts, amounted to 966.3 million pesos (roughly 19 million U.S. dollars).
"PDEA remains vigilant to ensure packages containing illegal drugs are intercepted and kept from being delivered," Aquino said.