Philippine Authorities Seize $38M in Meth at Manila Container Terminal

PCG meth packages
Courtesy Philippine Coast Guard

Published Oct 8, 2023 10:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Philippine police and the Philippine Coast Guard seized a shipment of more than 300 kilos of methamphetamine at the port of Manila last week, striking a $38 million blow against smugglers. 

Methamphetamine - known locally as "shabu" - is the most popular illegal drug in the Philippines. Under the rule of the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine authorities waged an all-out war on the drug and its importers, killing an estimated 6,000-12,000 users and dealers.

The vigilante campaign has subsided, but drug imports continue. On Friday, the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) unveiled the seizure of 323 kilos of methamphetamine that had been captured at the Manila International Container Port. 

According to the BOC's head of intelligence, Juvymax Uy, the shipment may have arrived at the port as early as February. The consignment - described in the bill of lading as beef jerky - had been abandoned at the port, Uy said. The container itself was old enough that it still bore the markings of United Arab Shipping Compay (UASC), which was acquired and absorbed by Hapag Lloyd three years ago. The BOC is working to find out more about the identity of the consignee. 

The Philippine National Police was first to find the cargo in the container, and it alerted the BOC and the Philippine Coast Guard. An x-ray inspection of the jerky packages revealed that they contained a combination of jerky, gel, and aluminum foil, plus meth wrapped in carbon paper to avoid detection. There were a total of 1,000 packs of meth in the shipment weighing a total of 323 kilos. 

The shipment originated in Mexico, where drug cartels produce methamphetamine on an industrial scale using precursor chemicals sourced predominantly from China's chemical industry. Mexican drug cartels have been active in supplying the Philippines with methamphetamine since at least the early 2010s.