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P168-M high-grade cocaine found off coast of Cam. Norte

By DELFIN MALLARI JR. LUCENA CITY - Fishermen from the island town of Perez in Quezon province found an estimated 28 kilos of high-grade cocaine floating in the seas off Bicol region on Sunday night, a Perez town official disclosed Tuesday. Leonardo Reyes, president of the Association of Barangay Captains in Perez, said four local fishermen recovered the illegal drugs placed inside a plastic container while fishing in the Pacific Ocean facing Camarines Norte. “When I was informed by the boat owner, I gave the instruction that the recovered items should be immediately surrendered to the police after their return,” Reyes said in a phone interview. Reyes said the fishers turned over the powdered substance to local policemen for proper disposition. The substance turned out to be high-grade cocaine after laboratory test by police chemist. Police estimated that the recovered 28 packs of cocaine were worth at least P168 million. The recovered items are now in the custody of the Quezon police. Boat captain Edgar Rey said he and his companions initially thought that they found a container of gasoline. But when they opened it and saw sealed packs inside, they realized that what they fished out from the water were illegal drugs. “Even we knew that it is equivalent to huge money, our immediate consensus and decision is to surrender it to the police because it is the right thing to do,” Rey told the Inquirer in Pilipino. He said: “While we knew that what we found was equivalent to a huge sum of money, our immediate consensus and decision was to surrender it to the police because it was the right thing to do”. The plastic container had 30 sealed packs but the fishermen opened three, suspecting that it contained money. But they threw the three packs back into the water due to their foul smell. Rey said a fisher from another boat fished out one of the thrown packs. Chief Insp. Marcelito Platino, Quezon police public information officer, explained that they intentionally withhold the release of the police report on Monday about the recovered cocaine due to the still ongoing police operation. “We don’t want to sabotage the operation,” Platino said. Platino said they received information that there are other fishers in Alabat island, where Perez, Alabat and Quezon towns are located, also recovered similar packs cocaine. “If the reports are true that there are other recovered cocaine in the hands of innocent fishers, it would surely endanger their lives and their families,” Platino said. Platino warned fishers who have possibly recovered some of the floating contraband to immediately turn over the items to the authorities. “It would not be easy for them to find buyers. We would surely get them before they can turn it into cash,” he said. On Tuesday morning, the fisher who retrieved the thrown pack of cocaine, surrendered it to Perez town police station. During the press conference held at the Quezon police headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, Senior Supt. Rhoderick Armamento, Quezon police director, was fully appreciative of the fisher’s decision to surrender the cocaine to the authorities. “Thousands of lives will be wasted if that bulk falls into the hands of unscrupulous persons,” Armamento said. He gave each of the four fishers a certificate of appreciation in recognition of their good deeds. Armamento attributed the attitude of the fishers on the success of the police education and awareness campaign on the evils of illegal drugs. “This means that even in far island, our citizens are fully aware and supportive of the government drug campaign. They knew their obligation and responsibilities as concerned citizens,” the police said. Authorities here believed that the illegal drugs were part of similar containers of cocaine found in Sorsogon and Isabela provinces early this year. On Jan. 3, a plastic container filled with 24 kg of cocaine was washed ashore at Matnog town in Sorsogon. On Feb. 6, cocaine sealed in a blue plastic container was found floating in waters off Divilacan in Isabela. The cocaine, in eight packs, weighed about 19 kg and was worth P80 million. Police and antinarcotics officials launched an investigation that looked into a foreign cargo vessel, which sank off Northern Samar province on Jan. 2, as a possible source of the illegal drugs. Quezon police tasked coastal barangay officials to monitor their territorial jurisdiction in search of more floating packs of cocaine and to prevent possible smuggling of illegal drugs. The 1,066-kilometer coastline of Quezon province had also been known in the past to be a drop-off point for “shabu” shipments. Thirty-four of Quezon’s 42 towns are coastal—17 along Lamon Bay in the Pacific Ocean, 12 off the Tayabas Bay facing the China Sea and five along the Ragay Gulf. In August 2000, government forces arrested six Chinese nationals who were smuggling 365 kilograms of shabu in the Tayabas Bay coastline in Sariaya town. The following year, policemen and soldiers arrested Panukulan town Mayor Ronnie Mitra and his security aides at a police checkpoint in Real town in northern Quezon. The island town of Panukulan lies on the coast near the Pacific Ocean.

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