₱1-billion shabu seized in Malabon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — Authorities seized ₱1 billion worth of shabu from a warehouse in Malabon City, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Friday.

The 146-kilogram drug haul, concealed in aluminum pallets, were retrieved during a joint operation of the PDEA, Customs, Coast Guard, police, and military on May 22. PDEA said the drugs came from Cambodia and is linked to the Golden Triangle drug syndicate — one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Authorities said they had a tip that a drug shipment would enter the country during the investigation of two separate raids in Cavite which yielded P1.9 billion and P244 million worth of shabu last February. Phones recovered from the arrested suspects showed they were expecting illegal drugs concealed in a tapioca starch shipment.

“We take all reports of alleged existence of drugs seriously. That is why we immediately reviewed the shipments that passed through MICP and even subsequent shipments which arrived at the Port after we received the intelligence report,” Manila International Container Port District Collector Atty. Erastus Sandino Austria said.

A statement released by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Saturday said the contraband was contained in hollow bars of aluminum pallets.

The BOC then recovered an abandoned shipment in March and on April 22 put it up for auction. The Goldwin Commercial Warehouse in Malabon emerged as the highest bidder, which explains why the P1-billion drug haul was recovered in the city. But PDEA stressed no evidence has linked the owners of the warehouse to the drug trade.

“Customs is committed to strengthening its intelligence and enforcement capabilities. We have equipped our Customs officers with the proper tools to identify illegal drugs including the proper intelligence-sharing agreements with government authorities,” BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.

The recovery came after President Rodrigo Duterte in April threatened to send Malabon Mayor Antolin "Lenlen" Oreta to jail if the city is not rid of drugs in a month.

Oreta, who got reelected, earlier denied the drug allegations saying PDEA itself praised Malabon's anti-drug efforts.

CNN Philippines' Paolo Barcelon and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.