SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS
 
 

The proliferation of loose and unlicensed firearms has become a perennial problem for law enforcers in the Philippines. Access to these firearms undoubtedly poses a threat to the nation's security and economic stability.

The geography of the Philippines contributes to the entry of smugglers of firearms and light weapons. Loose firearms remain a problem as their numbers hardly diminish. Another challenge that the government faces is the issue of gun ownership in the country, specifically the need to amend the existing laws that regulate firearm possession.

In an archipelagic country like Philippines, where such firearms can access several points of entry and exit using backdoor channels, it is imperative for the government to impose measures that will curtail, if not hinder, the increasing number of loose and unlicensed firearms. Reports about the continuing Communist and Muslim insurgencies, not to mention the massacre of several members of the media in 2009, serve as vivid reminders of the danger when loose or unlicensed firearms fall in the hands of unscrupulous individuals.

Records show that loose firearms hardly diminish in number. More often than not, the number of weapons used in criminal activities determines that such a trend is on-going and ever-increasing. Some researchers suggested that turning to illicit firearm trafficking becomes an option due to the pressures laden on some business groups, political groups, organized crime groups, and corrupted military links. Further, small networks and other individuals remain to have the option of buying and/or selling loose firearms (including deactivated ones that would be later on reactivated) with a similar purpose of criminal intent.

I n addition, f irearms sold around the country are also allegedly being smuggled to countries in the ASEAN Region, Japan and America. These firearms are mostly manufactured in unregistered local gun manufacturers also known as “PALTIK”. Moreover, due to the porous sea borders of the country, it is easier for smugglers to do back-door trading.

The proliferation of unregistered or loose firearms has thus become a persistent issue that governments continuously address. Several programs have already been instituted in order to monitor the number of firearms that are currently circulating in the country, and to encourage gun owners to register any unlicensed firearms. Efforts have also been made to prevent gun smuggling, incorporating several arrests in the process.

On the problems concerning illegal gun manufacturing, the formation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) to look for lasting solutions for both the community and the gun manufacturers had been formed to monitor the illicit production of weapons.

Campaigns by law enforcement authorities also aim not only to lessen the number of gun-related crime incidents but to diminish the incidents of illicit trade of firearms as well. The campaign includes home visits to owners of firearms with expired licenses, as well as dragnet operations in crime-prone areas, mobile and static check points.

The PCTC, in coordination with other agencies such as the Philippine National Police-Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO) and the Bureau of Customs have through the years contributed in limiting the proliferation of small arms and light weapons by formulating a comprehensive plan of action against such as firearms.