MANILA - The Sinaloa cartel, a multibillion-dollar Mexican drug empire, has teamed up with Chinese syndicates to smuggle narcotics into the country, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Wednesday.
Sinaloa's operations in the Philippines flourished even after the 2015 arrest of its then top 3 leader, Horacio Herrera, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Makati court earlier Wednesday, said PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino.
"They're the ones involved now in smuggling drugs using international service couriers," he told ANC.
"It's still continuing up to now. They have merged their operations with some notorious Chinese drug syndicates," he added.
In 2018 alone, authorities seized some P800 million worth of the cartel's drug shipments, mostly methamphetamine, in the airports of Manila and Pampanga province, said Aquino.
This amid government's continuing war on drugs, which has busted drug laboratories, syndicates, streel-level pushers and users.
The cartel, he said, also uses the country as a transshipment point of drugs heading to Las Vegas and California.
PDEA last week signed a deal with the Customs bureau that would allow anti-narcotics agents to search domestic and foreign vessels for chemicals and drug precursors, said Aquino.
The drug enforcement agency also aims to enhance intelligence efforts with its international counterparts, he said.
Sinaloa's Herrera was caught selling P12 million worth of drugs to PDEA and police operatives at a Makati hotel in 2015. He has denied being part of the world's most powerful drug trafficking and organized crime group.
Cartel founder Joaquin Guzman, more popularly known as El Chapo, was convicted on Tuesday in New York for drug trafficking.
The Sinaloa drug ring is tagged in thousands of murders, kidnappings and decapitations.
Violence began to surge in 2006 as the government launched a war on drug trafficking that sent killings spiraling. Mexico has registered more than 250,000 homicides since then, including a record number of killings last year.
The Sinaloa Cartel also smuggled hundreds of tons of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and crystal meth across Mexico's border with the United States.
The crime ring is now headed by Guzman's co-founder, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. -- With a report from Reuters