By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

FLOATING COCAINE. Fisherfolk surrender 20 bricks of cocaine worth PHP111.8 million found floating in the territorial waters of Arteche, Eastern Samar on March 8, 2024. The PNP on Monday (March 11) said it is not ruling out the possibility that drug syndicates from South America are using the Philippines as a transshipment point to smuggle cocaine. (Photo courtesy of Arteche LGU)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it would beef up coordination with foreign counterparts and conduct more patrols to curb drug trafficking within the country’s waters.

In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said they are not ruling out the possibility that drug syndicates from South America are using the Philippines as a transshipment point for cocaine smuggling.

This came after fisherfolk found 20 bricks of cocaine worth PHP111.8 million in the territorial waters of Barangay Tangbo, Arteche, Eastern Samar on March 8.

“Based on the previous interviews with the units that investigated this matter, it’s possible that these drugs may have come from the South America area, and they are using the Philippines as transshipment points. These are not intended for local distribution because the market of cocaine here in the Philippines is still small. The top abused drug here is still shabu,” Fajardo added.

She said the PNP Maritime Group is patrolling municipal waters while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy continue to beef up their capabilities in seaborne operations to guard the country’s coastline against intrusions by international drug smugglers and poachers.

The latest recovery has brought the number of cocaine bricks in the country’s territorial waters seized by the PNP to 255, following the seizure of 226 bricks in 2009 and nine bricks in 2010.

“But we are not 100 percent sure whether the source of the cocaine bricks recovered particularly in 2009 and 2010 is the same source of the recovered drugs that we have now. Drug smuggling or trafficking entails an elaborate funding from a drug syndicate and there is a possibility that foreign drug traffickers have infiltrated the Philippine market,” Fajardo. (PNA)