More cocaine found in container yard

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 March) – Two more bricks of high-grade cocaine were discovered at the Sumifru container yard here Tuesday, bringing the total number of seized cocaine since Saturday to 53 kilos, with an estimated street value of P318 million.

Sr. Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., chief of the Davao City Police Office, said the first brick of cocaine was found by a security guard of Sumifru who turned it over to the police in the morning while another was turned over Tuesday evening.

On Saturday, 24 bricks of cocaine were found strapped to the ceiling of a Maersk Sealand 40-footer container van number MWCU 6051422 at the Sumifru container yard which collapsed for still unknown reasons, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) XI said.

On Sunday, 27 more bricks were found in the container yard and another two on Tuesday.

The ceiling of the container van had 64 divisions which led authorities to conclude that 11 more are missing as only 53 bricks have been recovered since Saturday.

Emerson Rosales, director of PDEA-XI said a brick weighs a kilo and has a street value of P6 million each.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte offered a reward of P100,000 per brick for anyone who will return or give any information

“You can contact me, the city director, or the chief of Bunawan Police Precinct if you would return or give any information about the missing drugs and a P100,00 reward per brick will be given in exchange,” Duterte told a press conference at the Grand Men Seng Hotel on Monday.

Rosales said he could not say exactly how many bricks of cocaine are missing. “We cannot tell if there are missing items left and we cannot tell the exact amount because in the first place, we do not know how many were placed inside the container van.”

The agency is now scrutinizing the seized cocaine and will compare it with the cocaine recovered in Maersk Shipping yard in Sasa in 2009 and in the province of Eastern Samar where it was estimated that 2,000 kilograms of high-grade cocaine were dumped in its waters, on the same year. Only 571 kilograms were recovered by authorities.

In 2009, police recovered 16 kilos of high-grade cocaine with an estimated market value of at least 112 million from several container vans inside the Maersk Shipping container yard here in Sasa.

Authorities earlier said Davao City is not a known market for cocaine because of its price, and that the recovered cocaine may have been intended for shipment outside the country.

Duterte created a task force to investigate all the angles involved in this case, to identify if there are lapses on the part of the Bureau of Customs, Sumifru, Shipping Lines, and to trace a possible connection to the 2009 incident.

The task force is composed of operatives from PDEA, Davao City Police Office (DCPO), Bureau of Customs (BoC), Navy, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Maritime Police.

In his television program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” last Sunday, the mayor said that 41 bricks were missing and urged those who might have unknowingly taken these bricks to return to authorities.

He assured them they will not be subjected to an interrogation or arrest since the shipment was clearly the handiwork of an international syndicate.

Initial reports showed that the operatives of Bunawan Police Precinct, headed by Chief Insp. Simplicio Sagarino Jr., responded on Saturday after Sherwin Gabinez, security manager of Sumifru informed them that several bundles containing suspected illegal drugs were found.

Records from the BoC revealed that the container van came from Hong Kong, arrived in Davao on January 8 and was transferred to the Sumifru compound on March 19. The container van would have shipped bananas for export to South Korea.

In a statement, the BoC Collection District XII said they will enhance their monitoring and accounting of the flow of empty container vans used for the import and export in coordination with the shipping lines and the container yards within their jurisdiction.

“The port of Davao is now tracing the original port of embarkation and the movement of the said container,” said the BoC, adding this would help determine how the container ended up in Davao and how the bricks were embedded in the ceiling of the container van.