naia manila airport1
Manila's main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. (Image is for illustrative purposes only.) Image Credit: File photo

Manila: A Bolivian, Malaysian, and two Singaporean travellers were arrested in recent days after they were caught with illegal drugs upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The most recent arrest was made on Thursday, November 2, when a 30-year-old Bolivian national was apprehended while attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the country, the official news agency reported.

Seized from the Latino, a passenger on Ethiopian Airline Flight ET644 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was approximately 8,999.11 grams of cocaine, with an estimated street value of 47.7 million pesos ($831,100). He was taken into custody at the Customs International Arrival Area in NAIA Terminal 3, Pasay City.

In another drug-related incident, a Malaysian national named M.A.A., aged 27, was arrested on October 13 for his alleged involvement in smuggling illegal drugs worth an estimated 25.3 million pesos ($442,368). The suspect, arriving via Ethiopian Airline Flight ET644 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had originated from Antananarivo, Madagascar. The anti-drug operation led to the seizure of approximately 3,722 grams of a white crystalline substance suspected to be “shabu” (meth).

Meanwhile, two Singaporean women were also apprehended at the NAIA on September 28 for allegedly attempting to smuggle a staggering 76.1 million pesos ($1.34 million) worth of cocaine, concealed within 341 pellets. The arrested individuals had arrived from a Middle Eastern country, sparking a significant narcotics interception operation.

These arrests underscore the ongoing vigilance of law enforcement agencies in curbing drug-related activities and trafficking at the country's major gateways. Authorities said further investigations and legal proceedings will follow as they work to dismantle such drug smuggling operations.

Law enforcement agencies continue to evolve their strategies, guided by a commitment towards a drug-free future for the nation.

The arrest of suspects and confiscation of illicit substances align with provisions outlined in Republic Act 9165 (The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), Republic Act No. 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act), and the Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, ensuring that these seized narcotics are removed from circulation and no longer pose a threat to society.

28 billion pesos worth of drugs

So far, authorities have confiscated a total of 28.01 billion ($496 million) worth of illegal drugs nationwide from July 2022 to end-September 2023, broken down into the following:

  • 3,795.86 kg of 'shabu' (meth)
  • 38.26 kg of cocaine
  • 52,386 ecstasy tablets
  • 2,755.89 kg of marijuana.

During that period, 64,862 drug suspects were apprehended in 47,076 anti-drug operations, leading to the dismantling of 726 drug dens and a clandestine shabu laboratory.

Drugs destroyed

On October 20, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) destroyed a staggering $106 million (about 6 billion pesos) worth of illegal drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs).

This marked a key step in combating the drug menace, as a total of 1,019,204.7581 grams of narcotics were disposed of. These narcotics had been seized from various anti-drug operations, including 274 kilograms of shabu seized at the Manila International Container Port on October 6, 2023, and 208 kilograms of Dimethyl Sulfone recovered by the National Bureau of Investigation in Pampanga on August 25, 2023.

The destruction of these illegal substances involved thermal decomposition or thermolysis, a process utilising extreme heat to break down chemical compounds.