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BID says grounded Koreans deserve Pinoy hospitality. But do they?

January 9, 2010 3:48am

Tags: Cagayan
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Amid allegations of drugs smuggling and undeserved special treatment accorded to the Korean crew of a ship that ran aground in Cagayan, immigration officials in Cagayan Valley said Filipino hospitality was just being extended to the foreigners who entered the country legally.

Some sectors have assailed local Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) officials for allegedly letting the Koreans roam freely, with the possibility that they might be carrying infectious diseases.

The 22 North Korean nationals were washed ashore along the Taggat Norte coastal village of Claveria town last week, after their ship listed at about 6 nautical miles offshore near the border of Cagayan and Ilocos Norte provinces. The listing was reportedly due to the ship’s unbalanced cargo of mineral magnetite. [See: 22 Koreans rescued after ship loaded with minerals sinks off Cagayan]

An initial investigation conducted by BID agents in Ilocos Norte reportedly showed that among the ship’s cargo were still undetermined number of illegal drugs that included shabu and dried marijuana leaves.

The result of the official investigation has yet to be determined, however, since BID-Cagayan district chief Eva Antiporda claimed that a counter-inspection made by a team led by BID Cagayan Customs inspector Oliver Lagazo showed that the supposed “illegal drugs" were probably just flour and tea, as the ship’s crew insists.

Antiporda told reporters that both findings have yet to be verified since it is not within the BID’s jurisdiction, but that of the Bureau of Customs, to determine whether there were possible illegal drugs on the ship.

“Our foremost responsibility is towards the ship’s passengers, not its cargo. If their (BID-Ilocos Norte) information on the illegal drugs is reliable then they ought to file a case against the suspects," she said.

Until then, Antiporda said the Korean nationals can leave the country any time after undergoing the usual processing for foreigners legally entering and leaving Philippine territory, since “there is no reason yet to file any case against the crew of M/V Nam Yang 8." [See: North Koreans rescued off Cagayan entered RP as legal aliens]

The North Koreans are still housed in the residence of a Taggat Norte village official, eight days after they sought refuge in its shores aboard an emergency life boat.

The 2,615 metric tons of magnetite ore cargo on board the 3,461-ton Chinese cargo vessel were sourced from a stockpile in Lallo town, Cagayan province, after a mining ban on the mineral was enforced by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Meanwhile, Ilocos Norte police director Senior Superintendent Benjamin Lusad said the substances found inside the ship had been taken to the PNP Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame to determine if they are indeed illegal drugs.

Citing the findings of Paulino Verzosa, BID-Ilocos alien control officer who confirmed the presence of illegal drugs inside the ship, Lusad expressed concern about BID-Cagayan’s decision to let the Koreans leave “anytime," since the result of tests being conducted on the substances has yet to arrive. – JV, GMANews.TV

Tags: Cagayan