By Betheena Unite
Concealed in several tea packs, a total of 276 kilograms of shabu from Vietnam worth P1.8 billion were intercepted by the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at the Manila International Container Port Friday night.
The drug shipment which was declared as plastic resin was mixed with sacks of plastic resin contained in a 40-foot container van consigned to Wealth Lotus Empire Corporation, the BOC said.
It arrived at the Manila North Harbor on March 17. Every kilo of shabu was packed to look like Chinese tea.
PDEA General Director Aaron Aquino said they received information from their Vietnam counterpart in the early morning of Friday (March 22) that a cargo aboard the vessel Callao Bridge V145E en route to Manila from Vietnam contains huge amounts of illegal drugs.
The suspected container was located at 12:40 p.m. Friday at the MICP.
At 3:30 p.m., the container underwent x-ray inspection, revealing its contents. At 6 p.m., the illegal drugs were uncovered. Out of 486 sacks of resin, 12 sacks contained shabu, Aquino said.
Similar to Vietnam haul
Aquino said the foiled drug shipment was similar to the recent drug bust in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. And the drugs seized in Vietnam was similar to what was recovered in Manila, Aquino added.
“The operation of PDEA and Customs started when Vietnam Police seized last March 20, 300 kilograms (of) shabu in buy-bust operation in Ho Chi Minh allegedly run by Chinese national who uses textile company as cover-up,” Aquino bared.
The seized illegal drugs were reportedly meant to be distributed in Luzon.
The seized drug shipment, Aquino said, is expected to reduce the supply of shabu in the country.
“Of course malaki-laki ito, definitely medyo magmamahal na naman shabu (This is a big shipment, this will definitely increase the price of shabu). Price now range from P4,000 up per gram. Before it went down to around P1200 per gram,” the PDEA chief revealed.
“We have already revoked the customs accreditation of the involved consignee, Wealth Lotus Empire Corporation, and customs broker Castillo. Also, we will also file appropriate criminal and administrative charges against those involved in the importation of illegal-drugs,” MICP District Collector Erastus Sandino Austria said.
The intercepted drugs was reportedly processed by customs broker Jane A. Castillo with business address at Sta. Lucia Street, Intramuros, Manila.
Absence of death penalty
Aquino revealed that the absence of death penalty in the country is one of the reasons why Chinese chemists or anyone involved in the illegal drug trade continue to smuggle or manufacture illegal drugs in the country.
“They will never stop drug trafficking and smuggling of illegal drugs in our country. They will never stop putting up drug laboratories in our country. When we interrogate Chinese chemists, or anyone involved in the illegal drug trade, the first thing they will tell is that there’s no death penalty in the Philippines, and that’s the main reason. That they will continue to smuggle drugs. They can buy anybody – judges, prosecutors, even law enforcers and return to their country safely,” Aquino said.
In 2018, the Bureau of Customs seized more than P3-billion illegal from the Ports of NAIA, Clark, and MICP.
In the first quarter of 2019, the bureau has already intercepted more than half of the drug haul recorded last year.
Last Tuesday night, the PDEA raided a shabu laboratory in a posh village in Alabang, Muntinlupa City and seized 148 kilos of shabu worth P1.1B.
The drugs reportedly came from the Golden Triangle region interweaving the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. (With reports from Chito A. Chavez and Ariel Fernandez)