P1.8-B shabu from Vietnam seized at Manila int’l seaport

Aaron Aquino
PDEA Chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino inspects part of the estimated P1.8 billion worth of shabu smuggled by a foreign drug syndicate to the Manila International Container Port from Vietnam. Photo courtesy of PDEA

AGENTS of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Friday seized at the Manila International Container Port an estimated P1.8 billion worth of shabu believed to have been smuggled from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam by an international drug syndicate, PDEA Chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino announced yesterday.

The shabu originally came from China, according to the Bureau of Customs citing an intelligence report from Vietnam.

The intelligence information said the drugs were aboard Callo Bridge (14E), a cargo ship which would arrive at the MICP from Ho Chi Minh City.

“Immediately after receiving the information, we coordinated with the Bureau of Customs to locate the said container,” Aquino said.

The official said that at about 12:40 p.m. Friday, BoC officials located the container inside the MICP container yard. Around three hours later, an x-ray examination of the 40-foot container van revealed the presence of suspicious items, he added.

The PDEA and the BoC opened the container van at 5:52 p.m. Friday inside the MICP CFS3 warehouse.

When opened, the van yielded 276 sacks labeled as “plastic resin” but each containing a kilo of the so-called poor man’s cocaine or a total of 276 kilograms of shabu worth P1,876 billion; 11 sacks containing 24 kilos of the prohibited drug; and one sack containing 12 kilos of the same drug.

Aquino said they will investigate the cargo consignee identified as Wealth Lotus Empire Corp. “The container van arrived last March 17 and its contents were declared as plastic resin,” Aquino said.

The PDEA head said that the drugs were wrapped in tea packaging and are similar to the 300 kilos of illegal drugs seized by Vietnamese authorities in Ho Chi Minh City last Wednesday.

He said  the Golden Triangle Drug Syndicate is believed behind the foiled drug shipment.

The BoC said it will file charges against the consignee and the customs broker who processed the shipment. 

“The BoC will immediately revoke the customs accreditation of the involved consignee and customs broker, and appropriate charges will be filed against them,” Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.

“I have ordered all district collectors to alert and examine all other similar items to ensure that our border is safe from the possible entry of illegal drugs,” Guerrero added.

It was the latest big drug seizure made at the MICP. Last August 7, combined operatives of the PDEA, the Philippine National Police and the BoC intercepted 154 pieces of foil-wrapped sealed plastic packs containing 355.8506 kilos of shabu concealed inside two magnetic lifters at MICP in North Harbor, Manila.

Two days after, four more magnetic lifters were discovered abandoned by PDEA in a warehouse in Lot 1-18, CRS Subdivision, Barangay F. Reyes in GMA (Governor Mariano Alvarez) Cavite, but upon inspection, the metal containers were found empty.  Despite yielding negative results from swab testing, PDEA’s drug-sniffing dogs have responded positively in detecting traces of the illegal drug inside the lifters.

According to reports, the lifters were delivered inside the warehouse on July 14, 2018. A Filipino forklift operator unloaded them the following morning and saw seven Chinese nationals opening the metal containers using grinders. Two vehicles were also seen entering and leaving the warehouse.

Four persons of interest, including two Chinese nationals in connection with the intercepted shipment in MICP, are now facing charges before the Office of the State Prosecutor, the PDEA said.

Samples from the intercepted shipment of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, in MICP last year and pieces of drug evidence seized from recent anti-drug operations are linked together, officials said.

The PDEA earlier said that representative samples of the seized drugs were subjected to impurity drug profiling, an analytical technique that helps establish links between samples of confiscated drug evidence. The method can extract information to correlate the drug seizure to the synthetic impurities and the production method used in the manufacture of the illegal drug.

Based on the chromatographic impurity profiles and cluster analysis between samples from the intercepted shipment in MICP and bulk shabu seizures from recent entrapment operations conducted by PDEA in Sitio Tenorio, Barangay Awang DOS, Maguindanao on July 19, 2018; along Congressional Avenue, Barangay Toro, Quezon City on August 1, 2018; along Ronquillo Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila on August 26, 2018, and in Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa on October 1, 2018, show that they are of high similarity, indicating strong correlation among them, said Aquino.