By Aaron Recuenco and Chito Chavez
Police fished out 34 more bricks of cocaine worth P23 million off the waters of Surigao del Sur Sunday morning, the eighth cocaine recovery in the country since February 10.
Senior Supt. Bernard Banac, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the recovery stemmed from the reports of two fishermen who spotted the bricks floating in the seawaters of Tandag City.
The Caraga regional police have been aggressive in their information campaign on the possible presence of cocaine bricks in the region following the recovery of more than 40 bricks off Dinagat Island, and another 40 in Surigao del Norte.
“The PNP commends the good deed of two peace loving [law abiding] Filipinos for the recovery of suspected cocaine,” said Banac, referring to fishermen Ronnie Navales and Ryan Apelo.
The two fishermen, Banac said, immediately sought police assistance after noticing the cocaine bricks similar to what they saw in media reports.
Chief Supt. Gilbert Cruz, director of the Caraga regional police, said he immediately organized police forces for the recovery mission.
All the cocaine bricks, he said, were recovered in the waters of Barangay Bungtod in Tandag City.
“The bricks have dollar sign [marks] similar to those recovered in Dinagat Island Province,” said Cruz.
Other cocaine bricks found in Surigao del Norte, Quezon province, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte have different markings, which are names of expensive European cars like Lexus and Bugatti.
Each brick weighs more or less one kilo. The estimated street value of the latest batch of cocaine recovered is P230 million.
Authorities had earlier said that the markings are shipment codes, noting that those recovered could be part of a big cocaine haul dumped in the Philippine waters and was supposed to be picked up for distribution in other countries.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) stood pat on its assertion that the spate of floating cocaine bricks fished off local shores is a ‘diversionary tactic’’ by the international drug rings unless it can be proven otherwise.
“While all government forces are focused on operations to retrieve the floating cocaine, we believe drug syndicates may take the opportunity to smuggle shabu,” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said.
Derrick Arnold Carreon, PDEA spokesman, said PDEA’s stand remains unless the Philippine National Police (PNP) can provide the agency with concrete facts to negate such claim.
He said the agency is willing to sit down with the PNP to look at new data that will refute PDEA’s stand on the floating cocaine controversy.
The PDEA spokesman noted the illegal drug of choice by Filipino drug users is still shabu as the local market for cocaine is only around two percent.
Carreon said that PDEA is amenable to a dialogue with the PNP where any available data can be presented to determine if the local market for cocaine has risen substantially to more than two percent.
“They were willing to sacrifice P125 million worth of cocaine to smuggle P11.15 billion worth of shabu. It is because the Philippines is not a cocaine-consuming country. The number one drug of choice here is shabu,” he added.
Aquino said the country is just being used as a transshipment point for illegal drugs with international drug syndicates dumping cocaine in Philippine waters considering the loose security in its vast and porous shorelines.
“Cocaine is not a drug of choice here in the Philippines, but of countries like Australia, mainland China, and Hong Kong. While the government has reinforced anti-drug efforts in airports and seaports, drug syndicates have now resorted to ship side smuggling of illegal drugs through our unguarded coastlines,” he said.
PDEA is now conducting a thorough coordination with its foreign counterparts to determine the sources of the recovered cocaine.
The PDEA said “coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard will also be prioritized to address the problem.’’