Three global drug syndicates supply shabu to Philippines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — Three of world's most powerful drug syndicates have been smuggling shabu into the country, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said.

These are the Taiwan-based United Bamboo Gang or Bamboo Triad, 14K Triad or Hong Kong Triad, and the China-based Sun Yee On Triad, PDEA said Tuesday.

PDEA, one of the lead agencies in the government's war on drugs, said drug triads find the country an easy target for their businesses.

"The Chinese triads found the Philippines as a possible market and transshipment point for shabu because of the country's vulnerability, particularly its porous borders and vast coastlines, a factor in the undetected movement of illegal drugs through shipment," PDEA said in a statement.

Shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride is the most prevalent drug in the country, seized in majority of anti-drug operations, PDEA said.

From July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017, over 2,400 kilos of shabu worth P12.7 billion have been recovered from more than 7,000 anti-drug operations, it said. This comprises 68 percent of all drugs and drug paraphernalia seized during that period, PDEA added.

Modus operandi

The three triads operating in the country can each ship up to three tons or over 900 kilos of shabu to the country through shipside smuggling, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said.

"In shipside smuggling, these DTOs (drug trafficking organizations) cook their shabu in the high seas, dumped their contrabands overboard and retrieve them afterwards through nets as evidenced by the discovery of a floating shabu laboratory off the coast of Zambales on July 12, 2016," Aquino said.

"They also deliver illegal drugs in nearby coastal areas and bury them to be recovered by their local contacts," he said.

This happened in July 2016, 180 kilos of shabu worth P800 million were unearthed in Barangau Culao in Claveria town, Cagayan. A week after, a supposed floating shabu laboratory was found off the waters of Subic, Zambales whether authorities seized P10-million shabu. Authorities said the two operations could be connected with one another since the same fishing vessel were spotted in the two occasions. 

PDEA said it is strengthening its efforts to stop the trafficking of drugs into the country through ensuring tight security in the country's airports and seaports.

The drug enforcement agency's report comes as the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee on Monday released a report that recommended the abolition of the corrupt Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the formation of a Bureau of Security Control under the Department of Interior and Local Government. This new bureau to protect and secure Philippine borders will be one of two agencies that will replace the BOC.

READ: Grant Duterte emergency powers to abolish, revamp corrupt customs bureau: House panel

The committee made this recommendation after the entry to the country of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China, seized by the BOC in two Valenzuela warehouses last May.

Related: LOOK: How ₱6.4B-worth of shabu was shipped from China to PH

The National Bureau of Investigation has filed drug charges against Chinese, Taiwanese, and Filipino nationals allegedly involved in the smuggling.

Related: NBI files drug raps vs. 9 for alleged involvement in P6.4-B shabu shipment

The PDEA statement also comes as a nationwide survey of Filipinos revealed that most Filipinos believe only the poor were being persecuted in the government's war on drugs, which has been ongoing since July 2016.

Triads operating in PH

The Sun Yee On is the oldest and wealthiest triad, PDEA said. It started in Hong Kong in 1919 and now has 55,000 members worldwide, mainly based in China and Macau.

Meanwhile, the 14K Triad was founded in China in 1945 and is now based in Hong Kong, PDEA said.

These two drug triads, PDEA said, supply drugs to Mexico City-based Sinaloa Cartel, often considered the largest and most powerful international drug trafficking organization.

PDEA said it first found links of the country's drug trade to the Sinaloa in 2013 when P420 million worth of shabu were seized from a game fowl ranch in Lipa, Batangas. The ranch was leased by Mexicans believed to be members of the drug cartel.

Later in January 2015, Horacio Herrera Hernandez, a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in a drug operation in Makati City.

The Bamboo Triad formed in the 1950s is also engaged in prostitution, gambling, extortion, gunrunning, and human trafficking.

In September, Senator Antonio Trillanes, one of the staunch critics of the government's war on drugs, has accused the eldest son of President Rodrigo Duterte of being a member of a Chinese drug triad group.

Presidential son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said Trillanes' claims were all hearsay. The President vowed to have his son killed if allegations linking him to the ₱6.4-billion peso illegal drug shipment from China are found to be true.