A week’s haul: P472.6-M cocaine bricks found on Philippine shores

Rambo Talabong

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A week’s haul: P472.6-M cocaine bricks found on Philippine shores
Cocaine bricks are found on the shores of Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Camarines Norte, and Quezon

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.

WORTH MILLIONS.The 40 cocaine bricks found in Surigano del Norte. PNP photo

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.

FOUND BY A PASSERBY. A local turns over a cocaine brick – marked 'Lexus – he found in Camarines Norte. PNP photo

‘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.

INTACT ON SHORE. The cocaine brick in Quezon is found by barangay watchman. PNP photo

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.

He said the drugs could have only come from either the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia or the Sinaloa drug cartel based in Mexico.

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.

The discovery of cocaine in the country’s waters is nothing new. In January last year, authorities found blue plastic containers with 24 kg of cocaine with an estimated value of P125 million from the seashore of Matnog in Sorsogon; and then weeks later, off the coast of Isabela.

In 2014, authorities seized hundreds of millions of pesos million worth of cocaine bricks hidden in a Davao City container yard. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.