Duterte: Colombia drug cartel now in PH

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) campaign rally at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City on February 24, 2019. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — A Colombian drug cartel is now in the country, as seen through the batches of cocaine recently recovered from local shores, President Rodrigo Duterte said. 

In a speech Monday, he said the Medellin drug cartel, which he has repeatedly blamed for the proliferation of illegal drugs in Southeast Asia, has expanded operations to the Philippines. 

"I said we are facing a serious problem. Pumasok na ang cartel Medellin, Colombia. Kaya nga marami na naman makikita cocaine," he said during the first national assembly of the Liga ng mga Barangay in Pasay City.

[Translation: I said we are facing a serious problem. The Medellin cartel in Colombia has entered the country. That's why we are seeing a lot of cocaine.]

This comes after the Philippine National Police recovered 74 bricks of suspected cocaine from different coastal villages on the eastern seaboard of the country over the weekend. 

Since Ferbuary 10, police have found at least 164.8 kilograms of cocaine in the form of blocks tightly sealed with brown tape, with an estimated value of over ₱871 million according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino said Tuesday the President could have mentioned Medellin drug cartel based on the findings of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Samples from the cocaine blocks recovered in Matnog, Sorsogon in January 2018 showed similar characteristics of those cocaine manufactured in Colombia.

"There are particular solvents that were used to say that it came from Colombia," Aquino said.

Duterte earlier said those deliveries were also an indication that the Sinaloa drug cartel have infiltrated Philippine shores.

The President said this poses as a problem since the country has many islands that can serve as entry points for the drug cartels. 

"Dito, ngayon makikita mo kung lumulutang, shabu, cocaine. At mahirap ang Pilipinas because tayo ang pinaka-mahabang shoreline. Kasi island for island 'yan ganun. Hindi naman straight 'yan. Very porous," he said. 

[Translation: Here, now, you can see there are floating shabu and cocaine, and what is difficult is the Philippines has the longest shoreline because it has multiple islands. It's not straight. Very porous.]

He added that patrolling every island in the country may not be possible but warned that action must be taken.

"Seven thousand islands ang Pilipinas. Hindi kagaya ng America na isang stretch lang. Dalawang submarino lang mag-ganunan. Dito island for island wala tayo. Kulang tayo. So I cannot afford na may isang patrol dito, for island for island. Ganun kahirap. So I have to do something about it. I'm just warning," Duterte added.

[Translation: The Philippines has seven thousand islands. It's not like America which is just one stretch. It only takes two submarines. Here, for each island it is not enough. I cannot afford to have one patrol island for island. It's that difficult. So I have to do something about it. I'm just warning.]

Earlier Duterte warned of a "bloodier" war against illegal drugs, expecting more arrests. 

Police said they are still determining where the cocaine blocks came from but are looking into the possibility they are being dropped on Philippine shores by  international drug rings including the Sinaloa Drug Cartel and the Golden Triangle syndicate.

The PDEA said syndicates may be using the Philippines as a transshipment point, given that there is no market for cocaine in the country.