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Duterte: Bamboo Triad, not China, to blame for PHL drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday linked the drug trade in the Philippines to the Bamboo Triad, a group he said is to blame instead of the Chinese government for the illegal narcotics supply in the country.

"Itong drugs ngayon, it's been operated by the 14K, Bamboo Triad. They have taken over. They are cooking the shabu on the high seas. Tapos itatapon. Nakita mo sa Region 1, mga bins na empty na may Chinese character. It's actually from Taiwan at lahat na," Duterte said in a speech at the 120th anniversary of the Department of Justice.

"I cannot blame the Chinese government or the people," he added.

Dutere expounded on the matter in a speech later in the night.

"The Philippines today is a client state of the Bamboo Triad, they have taken over the operations ... sad to say the Chinese but I do not mean the coutnry and people in a sense that most of them are really into this kind of business," he said.

While Duterte's pronouncements were unclear about the exact nature of the Bamboo triad, the South China Morning Post in 2015 reported about the Taiwan-based United Bamboo triad gang, which they linked to Hong Kong's 14K triad.

Duterte called on the United States to work with the Philippines on the illegal drug trade.

"I said they have decided to go international. Philippines is a transshipment of shabu to America and it behooves upon America to work closely with the Republic of the Philippines especially on this serious matter," he said.

China's defense

Duterte's statement comes after China defended itself from allegations that it is a major source of illegal drugs smuggled into the Philippines, stating that it tipped off Philippine authorities on the P6.4-billion drug shipment that passed through the Bureau of Customs earlier this year.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila noted that anti-narcotics cooperation between the Philippines and China has always been on a “good track” and “has much potential.”

“Both sides agree that the law enforcement cooperation in drug control is of positive results,” it said.

“A series of successful cooperation in line with international practice of intelligence sharing and joint working, is against recent distorted reports with powerful facts.”

Over 600-kilograms of methamphetamine, locally known as shabu, shipped from China to the Philippines were seized on May 25 by local authorities, who acted on intelligence report from Chinese customs.

“The action prevents drug getting into Philippines, and fully proves the two countries’ law enforcement agency has strong determination to fight against drug smuggling, action without hesitation and efficient cooperation spirit,” the embassy said.

The contraband, delivered to the warehouse of Chinese businessman Richard Tan in Valenzuela City, was the biggest shipment yet of illegal drugs into the country.

Several personalities, including the son of Duterte, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, have been linked to the illegal shipment and alleged drug smuggling activities - an accusation denied by Paolo.

Some lawmakers critical of Duterte, whose war on drugs has claimed thousands of lives, questioned how the shipment cleared China’s Customs.

China branded these speculations as “false reports.” Such accusations, it added, would have a “negative affect on deepening China-Philippines cooperation in drug control.” 

Taiwan's defense

In a press release issued on Monday, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines said that Taiwan had "never been the source of illegal drugs" entering the country.

"Taiwan fully supports the Philippines’ combat against transnational drug syndicates. Taiwan and the Philippines have been working together to fight against illegal drugs for years. Taiwan will continue to join hands with the Philippine relevant authorities to enhance cooperation to vigorously eliminate the transnational drug traffickings," TECO said.

"To thank Taiwan’s contributions, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have presented 10 Appreciation Plaques to Taiwan’s counterparts to express their gratitude," the release added.

TECO said that Gary Song-Huann Lin, representative of Taiwan/ROC to the Philippines, had also approached the relevant Philippine government agencies and the Senate to clarify that the majority of the drug is actually manufactured in the Philippines, not from overseas, according to the available PDEA statistics. —JST, GMA News