Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez announced today the seizure of 32 drums of toluene, a controlled substance that narcotics chemists could have used to produce two (2) tons of shabu with an estimated street value of P1.5 billion.
Alvarez said the toluene shipment which came from Shekou, China was declared by consignee Trispher Trading as ladies handbags. It arrived August 10, 2010 at the Manila International Container Port.
Toluene is listed in the Dangerous Drug Board Regulation No. 3, series of 2003, as a controlled chemical. It is classified as a narcotic and a psychotropic substance under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
A psychotropic substance is a chemical that crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it alters brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behavior. Narcotics are addictive drugs that reduce the user’s perception of pain and induce euphoria.
Alvarez credited the discovery of the banned substance to the efficient utilization of Customs’ container x-ray machines and the vigilance of the x-ray personnel.
He said the use of these x-ray machines helped the assessment divisions in detecting false declarations and in determining the correct valuation and classification of goods through efficient scanning.
According to Alvarez, lawyer Lourdes V. Mangaoang, head of BoC’s X-Ray Inspection Project (XIP), had the dubious container subjected to a customs alert order after x-ray personnel found images of drums concealed by other items at the rear end of the container.
Alvarez commended the XIP personnel for bringing about this biggest toluene haul in the history of the Bureau of Customs.
Director Jose N. Yuchongco of BoC’s Enforcement and Security Service coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for the proper sampling and secured laboratory testing of the confiscated controlled substance. He was also tasked by Commissioner Alvarez to secure the confiscated drums at an unmarked warehouse inside the Manila International Container Port.
Yuchongco said customs operatives are now looking for the owners of Trispher Trading who have not come forward to claim ownership of the confiscated chemicals.
In Chemistry Report No. PDEA-CPEC010-001 dated 20 August 2010, PDEA chemist Sheila M. Esguerra certified that “the 32 drums were positive for Toluene, an essential chemical under Republic Act 9165 otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The PDEA confirmed that the 32 drums of toluene which translated into a total volume of 6,400 liters could indeed have been used to produce 2,000 kilos of shabu with a street value of P1.5 billion.
Gen. Dionisio Santiago, director-general of PDEA, said that pursuant to Article II, Section 4 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, a license from PDEA is required for the importation, use, sale, distribution of toluene.
He added that a penalty of imprisonment ranging from 12 to 20 years would be imposed upon anyone who imports a controlled substance without the necessary PDEA license regardless of the quantity and quality of purity.