PNP warns fishermen who keep 'floating cocaine' will face charges

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2019 07:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2019 10:39 PM

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) warned fishermen in the coastal barangays of three provinces on Monday to surrender blocks of cocaine that they may find in their area. 

Fishermen in Surigao Del Norte, Dinagat Islands and Camarines Norte recently found blocks of cocaine floating in their fishing grounds. 

PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac said there have been reports that drug dealers have been buying the cocaine found by fishermen. 

Banac warned fishermen in these areas that they will be held liable if they do not turn over the contraband to authorities. 

Caraga Regional Director Chief Superintendent Gilbert Cruz also warned they may conduct buy-bust operations in these barangays if they receive information that residents there are keeping contraband. 

Cruz also asked fishermen to be on the lookout for what may be the GPS trackers of the cocaine blocks. 

"Ang panawagan namin, kung may makukuha silang black box, anything na round metal or plastic, ibigay sa atin baka makakuha tayo ng impormasyon doon,” Cruz said.

PNP Maritime Group Director Chief Superintendent Rodel Jocson said they have placed tighter security of in piers and seaports. They have also intensified patrols in the Caraga's coastlines. 

“Pinaigting na namin ang pagbabantay sa pagpapatrulya at pakikipag-ugnayan sa lahat ng coastal barangay,” Jocson said.

It is possible the shipment was intended for one area but with multiple consignees, as indicated by the markings like Lexus, Bugatti and dollar signs, Cruz said. 

DIVERSIONARY TACTIC

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) meanwhile said this could be a diversionary tactic by drug syndicates to shift attention from bigger shipments of illegal drugs in other areas. 
 
In an interview with DZMM Teleradyo, PDEA Director Aaron Aquino said the blocks of cocaine found recently may have been "decoys". 

“From 2018 up to now nasa parang nasa 13 incidents na eh ang floating cocaine. Parang nakakaduda naman bakit hindi na nila narerekober itong mga cocaine na ito," Aquino said. 

However, Cruz said faulty shipment likely led to drug traffickers losing the cocaine blocks. He noted that the lines attached to the drug packages were severed. 
 
‘GHOST SHIP’

On January 2018, authorities received a distress signal from a foreign cargo vessel named Jin Ming which had an emergency docking along the shoreline of Pambujan, Northern Samar.

Cruz said the cargo vessel carried 11 Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong nationals. 

The vessel was considered a ‘ghost ship’ because the ship and crew had no proper documentation. 

“Nag-SOS dahil bagyo, pinuntahan naming, ni-rescue namin ang labing-isang Chinese crew, mayroong taga-Hongkong na interpreter. Yung barko walang papel," Cruz said. 

He added that the boat was last recorded in Chile in South America, where cocaine is produced.

“Yung barko, marami nang pinuntahan, pero walang record, ghost ship siya. When we asked the crew, wala ring seaman’s book. Kung hindi nag-SOS ang mga ito, hindi sila bababa sa lupa,tuloy-tuloy lang sila,” he added.

Authorities said they found several portable GPS devices inside the cargo vessel. 

“May sarili silang GPS na portable, nasa plastic luggage. Ginawa namin diyan, pina-deport na lang namin ang mga Chinese dahil wala silang mga papeles,” Cruz said.

A few days after, the blocks of cocaine were found floating in Matnog, Sorsogon. Authorities believed the drugs came from the cargo vessel.

Cruz said the modus of drug shipment in Caraga followed the same pattern. 

“Drug delivery yan, either maghahango ng drugs or mag-de-deliver ng drugs. Pwedeng palitan niyan, pupunta sila sa laot at kukunin sa kanila ang droga,” Cruz said.
 
The PNP said it was hard to guard the borders of the country. 

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard added boats to patrol the areas where the drugs were found. 

PCG spokesperson Capt. Armand Balilo said they also increased foot patrols in the coastal barangays to remind residents not to keep any drugs they may find. 

“We intensified patrol sa Eastern seaboard in coordination with PNP, coastal security patrol, intelligence monitoring and coordination with the fishermen,” Balilo said. 

Coast guard units in other regions were also alerted. 

“In-alert din namin ang ibang areas baka may diversionary tactic na mangyari, baka akala doon ibabagsak pero sa ibang area pala,” Balilo said.