Timeline: Floating cocaine blocks in PH waters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — More cocaine were found in Philippine waters and along the coastline in February this year as compared to the entire 2018, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported.

Eighteen days into February, PDEA recorded six incidents where the agency recovered  blocks of the dangerous drug washed to shores. Some 92.78 kilograms of cocaine, in the form of blocks tightly sealed in brown packaging tape, were recovered in February. These were valued by PDEA at P491.25 million.

In 2018, there were seven incidents where authorities seized over 90.58 kilograms of cocaine and its liquid form, amounting to P417.81 million.

Philippine authorities intercepted the biggest cocaine haul in December 2009 where 591 kilograms of the illegal drug worth P3.58 billion were found along the coast of Eastern Samar.

Since 2001, PDEA has intercepted P4.53 billion worth of cocaine in the country.

We look at the six incidents recorded in February 2019:

  • On February 10, PDEA seized the first cocaine package. A box full of cocaine worth P5.4 million was fished out by fishermen from the waters near Vinzons town in Camarines Norte.
  • On February 11, another fisherman found a brick of cocaine weighing 1.026 kilograms also near Vinzons.
  • The next day, 37 bricks of cocaine that weighed 48.825 kilograms and valued a P244,125,000 were found by a fisherman on the shoreline of Sitio Habongan, Barangay Poblacion, Cagdianao, Dinagat.
  • On the 15th, a police operation yielded of 40 bricks of cocaine weighing 40 kilos and amounting to P212,000,000.
  • Over 900 grams of cocaine were found on the shoreline of Barangay Bagumbayan, Paracale in Camarines Norte on February 16.
  • Another cocaine brick washed ashore in Quezon province on February 18. Police said it had similar markings as those recovered earlier in Camarines Norte.

"Kasi in Camarines Norte, the same package na may tatak na 'Lexus' doon sa press sa cocaine, parehas sila ng narecover sa Mauban," Quezon Police Provincial Director SSupt Osmundo de Guzman said on Tuesday.

PDEA noted that the cocaine found in Siargao Island and Surigao del Norte were labeled "3B Bugatti," while those in Camarines Norte and Quezon were marked "Lexus." It said the use of European luxury car brands to label the illegal drugs could indicate that the cocaine blocks recovered belonged to the same manufacturer.

It added that the massive amount of cocaine recovered in Samar in 2009 was labeled with the car brands "BMW" and "Audi." 

PDEA Chief Director General Aaron Aquino said some of the cocaine blocks found this year had GPS navigation systems on them.  He suspects these are used by syndicates to warn fellow drug traders to avoid the area as they expect government authorities to flock there.

Aquino believes the rise in the number of cocaine coming into the country  this year may be a diversionary tactic. He said the shift of focus to cocaine could allow drug syndicates to ship more of other illegal drugs.

Related: PDEA, PNP: Floating cocaine blocks may just be diversionary tactic  

Following the discovery of these floating cocaine packets, the Philippine Coast Guard said it would intensify its monitoring and patrolling of the country's eastern seaboard, where most of the illegal drug was found.

Cocaine's street value in the Philippines ranges from P4,500 to P5,300 per gram - over a thousand pesos cheaper than the prevalent methamphetamine or shabu. But Aquino said there is a very small market for cocaine in the Philippines, compared to neighbors like China, Hong Kong, and Australia, where the price of the drug manufactured from the coca plant or synthesized costs "like gold." PDEA added the drugs were likely smuggled from Colombia and Mexico.