MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the recent discovery of cocaine packages found floating off Philippine shores prove that notorious international drug cartels have penetrated the country.
Some P200 million worth of cocaine was found on the shores of Siargao Island last Thursday. Several blocks of the drug were also netted in the shoreline of Dinagat Island and the sea off Camarines Norte in the same week.
Another box of cocaine washed ashore in Quezon province, police confirmed Wednesday.
“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 in a speech in Malacañang following his signing of the Universal Healthcare Act.
The Sinaloa drug cartel is notorious in Mexico while the Medellin cartel is a Colombian syndicate founded by drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Last week, an alleged ranking member of the Sinaloa cartel was convicted of drug trafficking charges by a Makati court over a January 2015 drug bust that yielded P12 million worth of cocaine.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) recently said the Sinaloa cartel may be working with Chinese syndicates in the country.
Drug syndicates may be using the Philippines as a "transshipment point" for cocaine which is repacked here before it is sent to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and other nearby countries, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino earlier said.
The floating cocaine packages, however, could have also been a diversionary tactic to smuggle tons of methamphetamine or shabu into the country, he said.
Authorities have seized 13 floating cocaine packages since last year, Aquino said. All law enforcement agencies are coordinating for the assessment of the drugs, he added.
The Duterte administration has pursued a fierce campaign against illegal drugs, mostly netting traders and users of shabu.
Last year, Duterte expressed frustration at the difficulty of realizing his 2016 campaign promise of ridding the country of the illegal drug scourge.