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BOC foils another major drug smuggling try

Huge drug shipment seized in Batangas; marred by false volume estimate

THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) has foiled another effort by a still unknown drug syndicate to use the country’s premier airport as the entry point for shipping illegal drugs into the country.

In statement last April 18, 2024, NAIA district collector Atty. Yasmin O. Mapa disclosed that 32 kilos of shabu valued at P218.484 million was discovered by alert operatives from the X-Ray Inspection (XIP) Project and the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the NAIA Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA-IADITG).

The drug, which landed at the Pair Cargo Warehouse in Pasay City, came Zimbabwe, Africa, declared as “machinery muffler.”

The claimant and declared consignee, ‘Christine Donoga Tigranes,’ 28, a resident of Bgy. Balingasa, Quezon City, was promptly arrested when she tried to claim the shipment. Tigranes expectedly feigned innocence, claiming she was merely “instructed” by her “boss,” whom she did not name, to pick up the package.

This would be the second major drug interdiction at the Pair Cargo Warehouse by the BOC thru the XIP at the NAIA after seizing 58.93 kilos of shabu also from Africa last March 20, 2023. Two male suspects residing in Manila were also arrested when they showed up to claim the shipment (see article here).

Prior to this, last March 31, 2024, 31.250 kilos of shabu worth of 212.5 million shipped from New Jersey, USA, was also seized by the BOC at the Port of Clark (read article here).

Big drug seizure in Batangas

On Monday, April 15, 2024, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. broke his other schedules and joined Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, P/Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil, to witness the initial inventory of nearly two tons (2,000 kilos) of shabu loaded in a passenger van initially valued at some P13.3 billion.

Authorities take stock of a huge shipment of illegal drugs flagged at a checkpoint in Alitagtag, Batangas province, April 15, 2024, weighing 1,400 kilos valued at P9.68 billion, the biggest drug seizure thus far under the Marcos administration (ctto).Abalos said the illegal drugs, believed to have first been landed in Palawan before being shipped on board a private yacht to mainland Luzon via Batangas province, was discovered when the van passed thru a police checkpoint in the town of Alitagtag headed towards Lipa City. It was added the van’s final destination is Parañaque City, a part of Southern Metro Manila.

The driver of the van, Ajalon Michael Zarate, 47, of Bgy. Masagana, Quezon City, was immediately arrested. Masagana also feigned innocence, claiming he “did not know” that his cargo consisted of illegal drugs wrapped in some 78 plastic bags and sacks.

Abalos said the recovery of such a large amount of shabu is “proof” that the government’s campaign against illegal drugs is on the right track and without resulting to any bloodshed.

Also present during the press conference were Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) deputy director general Renato Gumban, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas, and Calabarzon police director Paul Kenneth Lucas.

Alitagtag police chief, P/Capt. Luis de Luna Jr. said that police officers became suspicious when Zarate appeared to be uneasy when asked for his driver’s license.

De Luna was given a one-rank, spot promotion for the accomplishment.

“You did not allow yourself to be tempted, you did not keep this, you did not take something, the drug was intact,” Abalos told de Luna.

The next day, authorities corrected themselves, declaring that the volume and value of the illegal drugs were “actually” only 1,400 kilos (1.4 tons) valued at P9.68 billion. The original figures of 2 tons of shabu worth P13.3 billion reported to Pres. Marcos turned out to be an “estimate.”

With the correction, the seizure turned out to be not the “biggest” drug seizure in the history of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs as announced by Pres. Marcos and Secretary Abalos.

On record, the biggest drug seizure remains the recovery of some 1,589 kilos of shabu in Infanta, Quezon, last March 15, 2022, valued at more than P11 billion, during the Duterte administration. That operation was carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

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