Foreign drug syndicates ‘turn’ to sea smuggling

February 16, 2019
Cocaine - blocks

AMID tightened security in the airports and seaports which have led to the interception of billions of pesos worth of smuggled drugs since 2016, international drug rings are now taking advantage of the country’s unguarded vast seas and coastlines to smuggle huge volumes of shabu and cocaine as proven by recent seizures, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, a multi-billion dollar Mexican drug empire, has even teamed up with Chinese Triads to smuggle narcotics into the country although many of their attempts have been foiled by the Duterte government.

“They’re the ones involved now in smuggling drugs using international service couriers.It’s still continuing up to now. They (Sinaloa Drug Cartel) have merged their operations with some notorious Chinese drug syndicates,” said Aquino, as he called on residents of coastal communities to immediately report to authorities the presence of big ships unloading suspicious cargoes in the high seas.

This week, police seized an estimated 88 kilograms of cocaine worth P440  million in Caraga region following a tip from a fishermen who found nearly half of the contraband drifting along the shorelines of Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands last Tuesday, Police Regional Office 13 director, Chief Superintendent Gilbert DC Cruz said.

In a report to Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde, the official said members of the Cagdianao municipal police rushed to Sitio Habangan in Barangay Poblacion after getting a report from a local fisherman around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The fisherman, identified as Gonie Curada, told police of the presence of vacuum-sealed packs with unknown substance drifting ashore.

Initially, the policemen recovered 37 suspected blocks of cocaine while three blocks were found in the same area.

Another operation in Siargao Island resulted in the recovery of 40 cocaine bricks wrapped in tightly-sealed plastics with the sign of “Bugatti,” a famous luxurious European car. The cocaine bricks discovered in Dinagat island were in packages with the dollar sign.

Cruz said it was the second cocaine discovery in the country since last Sunday, when more than  a kilogram of suspected cocaine worth nearly P5.5 million floated in the waters of Vinzons, Camarines Norte and were discovered by two local fishermen.

According to PRO5 director Chief Superintendent Arnel B. Escobal, fishermen Alfredo Vega, 6, and his son Alfredo Jr. were fishing in the waters of Bgy. Sula when they saw a vacuum-sealed box floating in the sea. The two retrieved the box and turned it over to local authorities.

Officials also said that the killing of two Chinese nationals in a gunbattle with PDEA undercover officers and the subsequent seizure of an estimated P1.9 billion worth of shabu during an operation in Tanza, Cavite this month was enough proof that foreign drug lords and manufacturers continue to operate in the country despite the Duterte government’s all-out war against drugs which since July 2016 to date has already led in the killing of 4,104 armed suspects, over a dozen of them foreigners.

Suspects Vincent Du Lim and Hong Li Wen were killed in a gunfight with officers in Barangay Amaya 1 in Antero Soriano Highway in Tanza.

According to Aquino, they are investigating reports that another huge volume of shabu has been smuggled into the country’s unguarded vast seawaters recently with the recovery of nearly 275 kilograms of  shabu from the possession of the slain suspects.    

He said they are investigating reports that the drugs were smuggled by a “mother ship” from a foreign country with the cargo transferred in the high seas using a much smaller boat or what anti-narcotics experts describe as “shipside smuggling.”

Aquino said they are looking into the possibility that the “mother ship” could have unloaded its cargo in the waters of Ilocos region and later transported into the Tanza warehouse.

Apparently, drug smugglers are using the old modus in the wake of much tightened security at the Customs’ area in the aftermath of the controversial smuggling of tons of shabu into the country’s port area over the past two years.        Aquino said the huge volume of drugs could have been smuggled to the country by an international syndicate with connections from the so-called “Golden Triangle” or the border of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

The official said that the Golden Triangle syndicate has gained notoriety for smuggling prohibited drugs into the country using the Sulu seas before distributing their stuff to Zamboanga peninsula, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao and later to Metro Manila.

Cases of cocaine in vacuum-sealed boxes spotted floating in Philippine waters are not rare.