THE latest drug scare in the country is the rise in the number of blocks of cocaine being found floating in Philippine waters.
For this month alone, police said some P200 million worth of cocaine was found on the shores of Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Island, Camarines Norte and Quezon province. The cocaine, placed inside boxes wrapped in brown packaging tape to keep the water out, were found by local residents who handed them over to the police.
This drug threat is different from the shabu trade which has been the target of the government’s war on drugs. Law enforcement agencies would have to address this threat differently because their Oplan Tokhang that targets mostly the shabu trade is not adequate for cocaine brought in by sea and by international players.
A CNN Philippines timeline on the floating cocaine blocks showed that more cocaine was found in Philippine waters in February this year compared to the whole of 2018. Citing Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) records, the report said some 92.78 kilograms of cocaine were recovered in six incidents recorded as of Feb. 20. Total value was pegged at P491.25 million. For the whole of 2018, the PDEA recorded the discovery and confiscation of P417.81 million worth of cocaine.
Cocaine’s street value in the Philippines ranges from P4,500 to P5,300 per gram-–more expensive by a thousand pesos than the prevalent methamphetamine or shabu, the CNN Philippines report said.
President Rodrigo Duterte said last week international drug syndicates are now in the country. “The news that you hear every day about the floating drugs all around the country is that really we have confirmed that Sinaloa and Medellin cartels are in the trade now. It has always been cocaine from Mexico,” Duterte said. The Sinaloa cartel is notorious in Mexico while the Medellin cartel is based in Colombia.
The PDEA said these syndicates are using the Philippines as “transshipment point” where the cocaine is smuggled, repacked, and sent to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and other countries in the region. The Sinaloa cartel, it added, may be working with Chinese syndicates in the country.
Some of those cocaine blocks were found to have global positioning system or GPS which, the PDEA said, warned syndicate members of areas to avoid or if the cocaine has been found.
With the discovery of the cocaine blocks, the PDEA and other law enforcement agencies have to come up with a strategy to address this new threat and new modus. The police had Oplan Tokhang, a nationwide campaign to visit suspected drug personalities to convince them to stop their illegal activities and seek rehabilitation. Tokhang is taken from the Bisaya words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (ask).
What is the counterpart of Oplan Tokhang to address the reported rise of cocaine in the country? What measures are being taken that are different from the campaign against the shabu trade? This is the new challenge posed to enforcers.