MANILA, Philippines – Over a span of a week, an estimated P472.63 million of cocaine bricks were found along the shores of 4 provinces in the Philippines, a country believed to be primarily a market for shabu (methamphetamine).
The cocaine bricks were found along the shores Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Camarines Norte, and Quezon – in that order – from February 12 to 18.
The first batch of cocaine was discovered on Tuesday, February 12, when fisherman Gonie Curada found boxes floating near the shore of Sitio Habongan, Barangay Poblacion in Cagdianao, Dinagat Island. Unsure of what the boxes contained, he called police.
When police opened the boxes, they found 48 duct-taped bricks, each filled with a white powdery substance later confirmed to be cocaine. The illegal drugs weighed a total 48.2 kilograms (kg) with an estimated value of P250 million.
Surigao del Norte haul
Two days later, on February 14, police recovered 27 similar-looking blocks of cocaine from the coast of Barangay Pacifico in San Isidro town, Surigao del Norte. The next day, February 15, cops conducted a sea patrol along the town’s shore and recovered 13 more bricks.
The bricks each weighed a kilo, and the total haul had an estimated value of P212 million.
'Lexus' brick in Camarines Norte
On February 16, another brick – this time marked with “Lexus” – was found along the shores of Barangay Bagumbayan in Paracale town, Camarines Norte.
Norly Laudiana Sorian, a local, found the duct-taped slab while he was walking near the shoreline in the evening. He opened it and found a white powdery substance, which cops later confirmed to be cocaine. It weighed 989.23 grams, and estimated to be worth P5.24 million.
Quezon village watchman's find
On February 18, another brick was found between the boundary of Barangay Rosario and Barangay San Jose in Mauban town, Quezon.
Village watchman Johnel Almirez Escudero came upon the brick at around 9 am on February 18. He removed the duct tape that bound the brick and saw that it contained white powder. The 1.01-kg brick later tested positive to be cocaine, with an estimated value of P5.39 million.
Why the drops? Without any pieces of telling evidence, Philippine authorities could only guess where the bricks came from and why they were dropped at sea.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino cited two possible sources and possible motives. He doubted that the Philippines had shifted from being a shabu to a cocaine market.
Aquino suspected that the cocaine drops only showed that the Philippines continued to be a transshipment point, or just a stop to a final destination – in the global drug trade.
“Kung titingnan mo, wala namang market ang cocaine sa atin. Mga 2% lang market niyan (If you’re going to look at it, we have no cocaine market. The market here is just 2%),” Aquino said in an interview with DZMM radio on February 18.
Aquino also suggested that the cocaine bricks could just be part of a diversionary tactic of shabu smugglers.