By Leilanie Adriano

ILLEGAL CONTRABAND. Some of the 18 packs of shabu found by a fisherman off the coast of Bia-o in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur on Wednesday (June 26, 2024). The police said the contraband has an estimated value of PHP117 million. (Screengrab from Facebook Live of radio station DWRS)

LAOAG CITY – More than 18 kilos of shabu with an estimated value of PHP117 million were found floating in the waters of Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur on Wednesday morning, two days after similar items were found in another town.

According to the police report, a lone fisherman recovered the items while at sea, 16.1 nautical miles west of Sta. Maria.

In front of the public as witnesses, a forensic examination by the Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Forensic Unit was conducted, taking at least six packs for random sampling. The result yielded positive.

On Monday, fishermen from San Juan, Ilocos Sur, around 58 kilometers away from Sta. Maria, found floating in the waters illegal drugs, which authorities said weighed around 23.9 kilos and has an estimated value of PHP157 million.

In a media interview, Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office director PCol. Darnell Dulnuan said a thorough investigation is ongoing to determine the source of the contraband.

The items recovered by the Ilocos Sur fishermen on both incidents appear to have similar Chinese markings, authorities said.

“This swift action demonstrates our dedication to combating drug trafficking and ensuring public safety in the province,” Dulnuan said in a public statement.

With the latest discovery of illegal contraband in Ilocos waters, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has recommended the conduct of training among fishermen and residents in coastal communities to serve as additional force multipliers in gathering information.

“The capacitation of our fisherfolk and residents of coastal municipalities is important in improving our operations,” PDEA-Ilocos Norte provincial officer Richard Tinong said during his presentation for updates in the campaign against illegal drugs held at the provincial Capitol session hall.

He also cited the need for continuous coordination and participation of all concerned government institutions in the anti-drug campaign.

Bigger shipment not ruled out

Meanwhile, Police Regional Office (PRO) 1 (Ilocos) chief Brig. Gen. Lou Evangelista said the recovered illegal drugs from the waters off Ilocos Sur province are likely to be only a portion of a bigger drug shipment.

In a phone interview, Evangelista said he has directed local police units to set up checkpoints to intercept traffickers who may attempt to transport the drugs by land. 

“This is the first time that we encountered such an incident. So we have also intensified our coastal operations,” he said.

Evangelista added they are also looking into whether the incident is similar to the drug haul in Alitagtag, Batangas, where a yacht was purportedly used to transport the contraband in the province’s waters.

He said the attempt to transport the contraband may have been hampered by bad weather.

“Baka dahil sa mga pag uulan, malalakas na pag uulan baka hindi nila nabuhol nang maayos. Siyempre malakas ang alon pagka umuulan. Baka ganun ang pangyayari (Because of the rains, heavy rains, they were not able to tie the drug packs properly. Of course, the waves are strong whenever it rains.That’s what possibly happened),” he added. (with Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)