MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte was not blaming a particular country when he pointed to drug syndicates based in Hong Kong and Taiwan to be behind the proliferation of narcotics in the Philippines.
In a speech Tuesday, Duterte said Taiwan-based drug syndicate Bamboo triad, also known as United Bamboo Gang, now counts the Philippines as one its “client states”, using the country as a transit point for illegal drugs being shipped to the US.
He also tagged the Hong Kong-based 14K triad in the trade.
A day before the President's speech, Taiwan denied being a source of illegal drugs in the Philippines. A report on Wednesday meanwhile quoted Taipei's representative in Manila Gary Song-Huann Lin as saying that he would like to get information on the President's allegations.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said even if Duterte mentioned the Taiwan-based gang, it does not mean he was pinning blame.
“As per his interview, I think yesterday, he did say that he was not blaming any particular country but [that] there was organized crime that was behind all these drug trafficking. He did refer to [the] Bamboo triad,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“I’m assuming the Bamboo triad are of Chinese ethnicity. They may be Chinese nationals but they are not government-sponsored. I think that has to be cleared,” he added.
He said the President would respond to Lin's request for clarification “when he finds it necessary.”
Abella also defended Duterte’s claim, saying the President has “credible international sources.”
The Taiwan-based United Bamboo triad has been linked to illegal drugs and human trafficking. In 2008, it was listed by the US magazine Foreign Policy as one of the world’s most dangerous gangs.
A South China Morning Post report said United Bamboo was founded in 1956 by people from mainland China who fled to Taiwan. The report said United Bamboo had close ties to the 14K triad and several major Japanese yakuza gangs.
The SCMP report said some 180 suspected United Bamboo members were arrested in the Philippines in August 2012 and deported to Taiwan for allegedly trying to set up a base for a scam operation here.
Philippine officials have long held that most of the drugs being imported to the Philippines are from China.
The Philippines considers Taiwan a province of China under the "One China Policy" and manages its affairs with Taipei through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office. Taiwan meanwhile maintains a counterpart office in Manila.
Earlier this year, Philippine authorities busted P6.4 billion worth of shabu at a Valenzuela factory. The contraband apparently came from China and had slipped past the port of Manila allegedly through the help of corrupt customs officials.