Another cocaine brick found in Batanes Island

Jose Mario M. Espino

ANOTHER cocaine brick valued at over P5.7 million found floating by a fishermen near the Basco, Batanes lighthouse on Tuesday was turned over to the local police by the finder, Police Regional Office 2 director, Brigadier General Jose Mario M. Espino said yesterday.

The official said the vacuum-sealed plastic containing around a kilo of cocaine was discovered by fisherman Roger Galo floating near the Naidi Light House in Basco town at 3:20 p.m. Tuesday.

Galo, a resident of Barangay Kayhuvukan was fishing in the area when he spotted the drugs wrapped in three plastics, one of them sealed with a green foil with the markings ‘guanyinwang’ refined Chinese tea, the 2nd with Chinese characters and the 3rd with the red letter ‘A’ mark.

The fisherman immediately reported his find to the Basco Municipal Police Station, said Batanes Police Provincial Office director, Colonel Merwin Quarteros. The recovered pieces of drug evidence were brought to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Region 2 headquarters for laboratory examination.

Following the discovery, Espino ordered the Batanes police to scour other areas in the island and its seashores for possible ‘floating cocaine.’

Espino said they have conducted a massive information drive and public awareness on the PNP’s campaign against illegal drugs and the presence of ‘floating cocaine’ in Cagayan Valley following the recovery on February 5, 2018 of 18.84 kilograms of cocaine worth P79 million along the seashore in Bgy. Dipudo in Divilacan, Isabela. Two local fishermen who found the drugs immediately turned them over to the local police.

Two weeks ago, a 48-year old fisherman from Tandag City in Surigao del Sur who was earlier hailed for his good deed when he and a friend returned a total of 34 bricks of cocaine they found floating in the local waters last February 23 turned out to be a bad guy who intentionally kept a huge part of their previous find in an apparent effort to sell the drugs to local drug users.

PRO13  director, Brig. Gen. l Gilbert DC Cruz made the revelation yesterday as he announced the filing of criminal charges for violation of Section 11 or possession of dangerous drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 against Ronie Arpilleda Navales.

“He is not a Good Samaritan after all as he was found to have intentionally kept six bricks of cocaine thinking he would gain instant money by selling the drugs to local users,” said Cruz.     According to the official,  Navales, a resident of Purok Santan, Bgy. Bongtud in Tandag City, was placed under surveillance after local police received reports about the sale of cocaine in some areas of Surigao del Sur.

Cruz said that after sensing he was already the subject of a police operation, Navales turned over four bricks of cocaine to the local police and claimed afterwards that he had flushed two more bricks in the toilet bowl.

Finding inconsistencies in his statement, police took custody of the suspect while the cocaine bricks he surrendered were properly turned over to the local office of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Navales and fellow fisherman Ryan Apelo,23, found the floating cocaine bricks and immediately turned their find to the Tandag City Police Station earning them kudos from local officials and sacks of rice as a reward for their feat.

“Let us not be blinded by the greed of money for it will only bring trouble to you and your family. May this also serve as a warning to those who have recovered bricks of cocaine but have decided to keep them for themselves in order to sell the drugs in the future. You can never hide from the long arm of the law,” Cruz said.

Last April 7, forty more cocaine bricks worth an estimated P200 million were turned over to the local police by local fishermen who discovered them floating in the waters of Surigao del Norte.

Cruz said the cocaine bricks wrapped in a fishnet were spotted by a group of fishermen at the waters of Burgos, Surigao del Norte 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The fishermen immediately reported their find to the Burgos Municipal Police Station headed by Captain Carter Yamba.

According to PDEA chair, Director General Aaron N. Aquino, an initial check showed the cocaine bricks had the same markings discovered on the waters of Bgy. Pacifico in San Idisro, Surigao del Norte last February 17.

Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde had maintained that the nearly P1 billion worth of floating ‘cocaine bricks’ found in the country’s eastern seaboards could have really been intended for shipment to Australian and not really destined for the Philippines as the country in the bottom list of cocaine-consuming countries across the globe.

Citing information provided to him by his Australian counterparts, the PNP chief said the cocaine bricks which washed  ashore in the country’s eastern seaboard appears to have come somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and not for delivery to The Philippines. The cocaine bricks were found in Dingalan, Aurora, Barangay Villamanzano Norte in Perez, Quezon; Bgy. Bagumbayan in Paracale, Camarines Norte; Vinzons, Camarines Norte; Cagdianao, Diganat Island; San Isidro, Surigao del Norte; Tandag City in Surigao del Sur; and Bgy. Santiago in Caraga, Davao Oriental.

Albayalde said the Australian Federal Police (AFP)  are looking into the possibility that the cocaine bricks recovered in the country could be similar to those found in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea last year.