Floating cocaine could be decoy – PDEA
Antinarcotics agents are looking at two angles in the consecutive incidents in which cocaine blocks were found floating on the sea in at least three areas across the archipelago last week.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said the cocaine blocks were either intended for transshipment to other countries or these were part of a diversionary tactic by syndicates while they smuggled bigger hauls of narcotics into the country elsewhere.
Blocks of cocaine worth millions of pesos were found floating off Camarines Norte and Siargao, and Dinagat islands in recent days.
“We are looking at two angles here — that the Philippines is being used as a transshipment point, meaning, the cocaine is being brought into our country and eventually repacked and delivered somewhere else, like Hong Kong, Taiwan or China or other neighboring countries,” Aquino said in a radio interview on Monday.
He echoed a similar statement by Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde over the weekend.
“The other angle is that this is a diversionary tactic — that a small amount would be allowed to be caught, while a bigger amount of drugs is being sneaked in … Once there is a floating cocaine incident, all law enforcement is focused there for retrieval and search,” Aquino said.
“So the tendency is to create a vacuum or gap in some vast coastlines where ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) could be brought in,” he added, noting that cocaine only amounted for around 2 percent of the illegal drug market in the Philippines.
Aquino noted that there had been 13 incidents in which fishermen found blocks of cocaine floating off the country’s coasts since 2018.
“It is becoming suspicious why this cocaine isn’t being recovered … when it’s supposed to be [embedded] with GPS (global positioning system trackers). And if shabu is also being smuggled by sea, why aren’t we finding floating shabu, just cocaine?” he said.
Report suspicious sightings
Senior Supt. Bernard Banac, the PNP spokesperson, on Monday said he agreed with the PDEA assessment that the floating cocaine could be a decoy.
“That’s why we [are calling] on our people to remain vigilant, to report any suspicious sightings of items or persons, and never allow the proliferation of illegal drugs in our communities,” Banac said.
He admitted that, though police have intercepted more than 3,000 floating drug laboratories and dens in the country’s seas, it was still a big challenge for law enforcers to prevent the entry of illegal drugs into the country.
“We [have] more than 7,000 islands, so it’s really difficult to monitor and guard,” Banac said.
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