Philippines steps up efforts to check entry of Mexican cartel

Philippines steps up efforts to check entry of Mexican cartel
File photo of the alleged leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel in Guatemala, Pompa and Anavisca handcuffed in the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City

MANILA - The Philippines said Friday it will take special measures to investigate the entry of Mexico's feared Sinaloa drug cartel into the country.

President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said there would be increased cooperation between Philippine anti-drug agencies and their foreign counterparts after the arrest of three people on Wednesday allegedly linked to one of the world's biggest drug syndicates.

She also said the immigration bureau would try to find out how members of the cartel entered the Philippines amid reports that they used US passports.

"We are having improved information sharing which leads to the capture of either (drug) smugglers or of those (criminal) rings here. Because we don't want our country to become a haven for illegal drugs," she told reporters.

This came after Philippine anti-drug police said on Thursday they had arrested three Filipinos who were storing illegal drugs for the Sinaloa drug cartel.

The two Filipinos and one Filipino-Chinese were arrested for possession of 84 kilogrammes (185 pounds) of methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as "ice", "meth" or "shabu", as well as two firearms.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said in a statement on Friday that the illegal drugs came from Mexico and that three Mexican nationals, identified as "Jorge Gomez Torres," as well as two individuals known just as "Jaime" and "Joey", were involved but were not at the scene of the raid.

Previous police reports had said a Filipino named "Gary Torres" and two Mexicans known as "Jaime" and "Joey" were being sought.

The chief of the anti-drug agency, Arturo Cacdac said in the statement that the cartel considered the Philippines a "possible market and transshipment point for shabu because of the country's geographical location... porous borders and vast coastlines."

The Sinaloa cartel is reputed to be the largest source of illegal drugs to the United States.

Its main leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. He is now America's most wanted drug trafficker, as well as being considered by Forbes as the most powerful criminal on the planet.

More than 77,000 people have been killed in Mexico in connection with organised crime since then-president Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide war against the cartels after taking office in 2006.

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