DAVAO CITY – Foreign drug cartels are now the main source of processed narcotics after local syndicates have opted to repack and distribute illegal drugs, rather than putting up small and mega-sized laboratories of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) official revealed.
PDEA deputy director, Derrick Arnold Carreon, who is also the agency’s information director, listed the suppliers as the Golden Triangle of China, the Mexican cartel, and the African drug syndicates.
The Chinese drug syndicate was the biggest group to be dismantled so far last year, which, Carreon said, was largely due to the coordination with China’s anti-narcotics agency.
“There is also the Mexican cartel, who works with its Chinese contacts to move their drugs here,” he added. A third bigger group were those identified under the African drug syndicates, whose notoriety sprang from duping or luring unsuspecting Filipino victims as drug mules around Asia.
“These drugs enter the country through our airports, seaports, the mail courier services. They hide their drugs in [their] luggage and in the bodies of drug couriers,” he told a news briefing at the end of the two-day first national anti-drug summit held at the Marco Polo Hotel here.
He said the porous border of the country allowed for the smuggling of illegal drugs although he said other Asian governments were not remiss on their side at stopping the illegal drugs trade in their respective countries.
From these points of entry, the drugs were received by their contacts, or other client syndicates, which repack and distribute them to their buyers.
Local syndicates have not totally abandoned local manufacturing though, with some of them still “cooking shabu” to meet the demands.
Local police and PDEA sources told the BusinessMirror in several separate occasions that local shabu manufacturers put up laboratories in the basements of abandoned buildings or use dilapidated farm houses as cover to their underground laboratory activities, with houses around the neighborhood used as sounding boards to alert of any entry of law enforcers into their areas.
A high-ranking Army officer also told the BusinessMirror last year that authorities have apparently overlooked an islet off a southern trading area in central Mindanao, which, he said, was for years, “highly believed to harbor shabu laboratories.”
Carreon said illegal drug syndicates continued to elude law enforcement operations although a number of them have also been caught and dismantled. “It’s a multi-pronged campaign, and that’s why we repeatedly appeal to the public to help us identify them or their activities.”
“For as long as there is a demand for illegal drugs, these syndicates would continue cooking shabu, for finding ways to get supply,” he said. “We have to reduce the demand to stop them from manufacturing shabu.”
In its presentation in a panel discussion on Sunday, the PDEA said it has dismantled 14 clandestine shabu laboratories and 271 drug dens since July 2016, when President Duterte assumed the presidency and implemented immediately his trademark anti-illegal drugs campaign promise.
“Don’t vote for me because the war on illegal drugs would really be bloody,” he often said in the campaign.
Some 5,104 persons have also died in the course of 117,385 anti-illegal drug operations since 2016. The operations led to the arrest of 167,135 persons as more than one million others have surrendered to authorities to clear their names and strike them off the list of targeted individuals.
Critics put up a higher number of slain persons, almost double the official figure of the PDEA, and castigated the police for killing alleged innocent persons and passed them off as members of syndicates putting up a fight with agents conducting the operation.