The Chair of the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN) has confirmed that the smuggling of illicit drugs within the region continues to increase, tracing its roots back to South America.

The effect of this has been noticed in Samoa with larger quantities of methamphetamine being seized at a more frequent rate.

In an exclusive interview with Samoa newspaper at the conclusion of the South West Pacific Heads of Maritime Forces Meeting meeting held in Samoa last week, Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo confirmed that there has been an increase in drug smuggling within the region.

Samoa’s Police Commissioner who is also the Chairman of PTCN says it has been identified that the drugs discovered by some of the Pacific Island countries are brought from South America down to New Zealand and Australia.

Vice Admiral Mark Hammond, the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy also added that one of the concerns raised during the SWPHM meeting said that “drug smuggling did not slow down during COVID-19”.

“From the presentations we’ve had during our discussions and meetings, it has been identified that drug smuggling has increased within the region, tracing its roots all the way to South America, coming down to Australia and New Zealand because it is seen as a lucrative market.

“There are offers of one kilo of meth for an estimated cost of about AUD$200k(US$128,000).

“This has been identified through some of the detection carried out by the New Zealand Navy which has recently picked up three kilos of meth as well as some of the big drug busts in Australia through its maritime space.

“So yes, it is definitely increasing.”

Vice Admiral Hammond added that the discussions in Apia last week have helped them identify some of the common challenges they continue to face in relation to maritime security and will enable them to formulate better strategies to guard and protect the Blue Pacific Ocean.

“I’ve learned about the perspective of other nations and one of the things we discovered is that the flow of drugs did not slow down during COVID even with international airports shut down, which means it was still penetrating across the maritime border during the pandemic.

“Most of these nations now offer guardian boats what we are building here is to be guardians of the Blue Pacific.

“When it comes to the maritime security of our Blue Pacific, every one of us derives our economic well-being from the sea, either from the natural resources in the sea or under the sea, or from trade that flows across the ocean; so we are all connected through the ocean and it’s important that we commit our efforts into protecting and ensuring the security and safety of our ocean,” he said.