PHL-US closely monitoring anti-drug efforts

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star
PHL-US closely monitoring anti-drug efforts

During the meeting between President Duterte and US Ambassador Sung Kim last week, one of the issues discussed was the government’s all-out campaign against illegal drugs. Having worked as a prosecutor in Los Angeles before joining the State Department, Ambassador Kim says he understands the President’s concern about the problem of illegal drugs, which the President believes is so serious to the point that it could destroy the future of this country and its people.

A recent survey conducted by US-based think tank Pew Research Center revealed that a big majority of Filipinos — 86 percent to be exact — have a favorable view of the President, with 78 percent indicating their approval of the way the illegal drugs issue is being handled. Even among respondents who registered an “unfavorable” view of the President, 59 percent admitted they approve of the handling of the illegal drugs problem.

Not surprisingly, many people welcomed the President’s statement that the United States and the Philippines have to work closely in order to address the serious issue of drug trafficking.

US and Philippine authorities have actually been coordinating closely for so many decades to stem the illegal drugs trade, in fact, way before 9/11 happened. I myself experienced first-hand this close coordination between US and Philippine authorities during one of my visits to the United States. At the time, local authorities had just busted an attempt to ship illegal drugs to the US.

So when I arrived at the San Francisco airport — one of the few times when I was wearing denim jeans, I had not shaved and was still bleary eyed having just woke up from a long 13-hour flight so I must have looked shabby — US Customs authorities stopped me and put my passport in a yellow folder, which meant that I would be subjected to a secondary inspection. 

The Customs people led me to a holding area without anybody telling me what the problem was, searching my luggage, going through my clothes and everything. After a couple of hours waiting, one of the agents spotted this photo of me with Chuck Norris and the late vice president Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel. A few weeks before that trip to the US, former VP Doy hosted a dinner for the American martial arts actor who was in Manila in 1989 to promote his movie Missing in Action 3, with some of the scenes shot in the Philippines.

So many photos were taken at the time and there was even one with my arm around Chuck Norris. Apparently, the Customs agent who saw the photo was a big fan of the actor, and so asked me: “Do you know Chuck Norris?” and I told him “Yes, Chuck and I are friends” — so he became much friendlier and finally told me that they were doing random checks of travelers coming from the Philippines because there were reports about illegal drug traffickers coming into the US. Chuck Norris doesn’t know it — but he saved the day for me!

Over the years, the trafficking of illegal drugs has become even more widespread, especially with our porous borders that make it easy for criminals to ship illegal drugs and other items in and out of the country. According to President Duterte, the Philippines is being used as a transshipment point for shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) being transported to the United States. He noted the country has become a “client state” of the “bamboo triad,” with the 14K group of Hong Kong also running drug operations in the Philippines.

The “bamboo triad” mentioned by the President could be the Taiwan-based United Bamboo organization that is involved in all sorts of criminal activities that include kidnapping, murder, as well as sex and drug trafficking. United Bamboo has been described as one of the biggest organized crime groups in the world, and was implicated in the 2015 kidnapping of Hong Kong oil tycoon Wong Yuk-kwan (who was in Taiwan at the time) with a ransom demand of 70 million Hong Kong dollars. The billionaire was held hostage for more than a month before he was rescued by Taiwanese authorities in an abandoned cottage in Western Taiwan, looking frail and with bruises on his face and body.

Reports say the 10,000-strong United Bamboo was established in 1956 by Chinese mainlanders who fled to Taiwan after Chang Kai-shek’s Koumintang Party was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party of Mao Zedong following the civil war in China.

A 2015 article by the South China Morning Post says the United Bamboo gang has expanded its criminal activities to as far as Latin America, and that 180 members were arrested in the Philippines in 2012 for trying to set up a base for a scam operation. The National Security Bureau of Taiwan also believes the gang’s illegal drugs activities has reached North Korea, even during the time of Kim Jong-il who reportedly gave it his approval, the report added.

This is not farfetched, considering recent reports that North Korea has now turned to the production and trafficking of illegal drugs — crystal methamphetamine to be exact – to compensate for the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations for its continued belligerence regarding its nuclear program.

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Email: [email protected].

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