Philippine anti-drugs operatives killed four alleged Chinese drug traffickers in a major operation on Tuesday that led to the confiscation of more than half a ton of crystal methamphetamine, the largest seizure this year in the government’s war on drugs.
National police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the four slain men were trying to escape from a sting in which undercover officers sought to purchase a kilogram of the drug, whose street name is shabu.
“They were known distributors of illegal drugs in Luzon, particularly in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Region 4,” Eleazar said. Luzon is the main northern island of the Philippines, while Region 4 includes suburban areas just south of the capital.
Among those killed was Chinese national Xu Youha, 50, identified by police as a major drug trafficker who had evaded authorities in recent years. The others were identified as Gao Manzhu, 49; Hong Jianshe, 58; and Eddie Tan, 60 – all from Fujian, China.
Drug Enforcement Agency chief Wilkins Villanueva said Xu was “one of the biggest personalities in the illegal drug trade in the Philippines, as well as a member of a drug trafficking organization.
“Operatives have been working on this operation for the past three months, and for the past few weeks Xu’s operations have escalated, that’s why we conducted a buy-bust operation this morning,” Villanueva said.
Members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) joined by police planned the undercover operation that spiraled into a shootout in the town of Candelaria in the northwestern province of Zambales.
Officers seized 500 kg. (1,100 lbs.) of crystal methamphetamine, which they said had an estimated street value of 3.4 billion pesos (U.S. $67.7 million). Eleazar said the seizure was “the biggest for this year so far,” while adding that no police were injured in the operation.
He did not release details about where officers confiscated the drugs.
During a related operation hours later, authorities arrested three Chinese nationals and confiscated 80 kg. (176 lbs.) of crystal meth, valued at 544 million pesos ($10.8 million), in the northern province of Bataan, according to the national police. Those arrested were identified as Qing Chang Zhou, 37; Cai Cai Bin, 49; and Longcai Chang, 45.
In 2020, anti-drug personnel seized more than 800 kilos of crystal methamphetamine in Bulacan, a suburban province north of Manila. Tuesday’s incident was part of ongoing follow-up operations stemming from that raid, authorities said.
Villanueva said illegal drugs likely were brought into the Philippines by speed boats that picked them up from ships in international waters. The drugs were dropped off in remote coastal regions in the northern province of Pangasinan, and distributed from there.
“So we surmise that the drugs enter from international waters, and are brought to land by boats. But what is good is that local communities are coordinating with us,” he told reporters.
Eleazar said he had deployed helicopters and speedboats to assist in chasing down boats transporting the drugs from Pangasinan to coastal regions in Zambales province.
“This operation was a result of the whole-of-government approach in our campaign against illegal drugs. Our coordination and cooperation with other government agencies, particularly with the PDEA, is now stronger than before, so we are confident that this will be our strong point in our successful campaign to put an end to the threats of illegal drugs in the country,” he said.
Tuesday’s haul was the biggest in recent months and came after the outgoing chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in June called for a full probe into allegations that crimes against humanity occurred during the drug war under Duterte.
Duterte, who took office in 2016, campaigned on a pledge of ridding the Philippines of illegal drugs and drug addiction, promising to turn Manila Bay red with the bodies of dead drug suspects.
Since he took power, at least 8,000 suspected dealers and addicts have been killed in police operations, according to government figures, while rights groups claim that the number could be thousands more when including extrajudicial killings blamed on government-linked vigilantes.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.