By Edith G. Alejandro

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 24) - The CNMI Customs Division disclosed plans to train additional dog detector handlers on Rota and Tinian to help facilitate efficient inspection processes at the two islands.

The project is being given priority, especially since the West Tinian International Airport would be ready to receive international flights beginning August 2003, Customs Director John Santos said.

Santos said the CNMI Pacific Region Detector Dog Training Center would begin training additional resident handlers for Tinian and Rota in the coming weeks.

Also, the center would be training additional inspectors who could be deployed to Tinian and Rota in the future as support for the existing dog handlers there.

"The goal is to have handlers there and additional handlers here who would visit the islands to help them on whatever needs they may have. This is important, especially that Tinian and Rota would be open to international flights in the near future," the customs director pointed out.

He explained that the handlers would assist in protecting the border of Tinian and Rota against the entry of smuggled and illegal contrabands. "This is a position not done before and we would be improving on that aspect soon," he said.

As the new customs director, Santos said he wants to ensure that everything being done on Saipan would be effectively carried out on the two other islands to customize the inspection operations.

"Hopefully, this program would impede the entry of narcotics and other illegal items CNMI-wide," he stressed adding that the two islands, would also get their own K9 dogs in the future.

The Customs Division stated that illegal activities continue to exist and steps are being taken to address this problem as early as now, in preparation for the international air and sea-borne activities on Tinian and Rota.

He pointed out that the Custom Division has been strictly implementing its inspection system, including passengers arriving on Tinian and Rota from Guam, mainly because of reports that methamphetamine hydrochloride is being imported into the neighboring islands.

The project is part of the K9 Detector Dog Handler training here on Saipan, a program that is being tapped by other Pacific island-nations. The $200,000 facility, which is comprised of a training facility for K-9 sniffing dogs, personnel office and an obstacle course playground for the highly trained dogs, has been hosting a training program to customs officers from other areas in the region.

Santos hopes that with the facility, Northern Marianas will be able to educate more dog handlers in the future since training and professional developments are being provided to custom officers right now.

July 24, 2003

Saipan Tribune: www.saipantribune.com 


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