MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine customs authorities waited a month to see who would claim the suspicious shipment of "kitchen equipment" from Taiwan. The unclaimed items seized Tuesday appeared to have been meant for cooking something illegal.
A Chinese drug syndicate is suspected to have arranged the shipment to use the drumloads of chemicals, heating equiment and other items to produce large quantities of methamphetamine in the Philippines, officials said.
After a tip-off from an informant, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission secretly monitored the arrival of the shipment as part of a new crackdown to prevent foreign-based drug syndicates from setting up clandestine drug laboratories and secret warehouses in the country, specially in the capital, said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who heads the commission.
The five containers were declared by the shipper as carrying kitchen equipment. It had refrigerators, laboratory glass containers and pipes, plus 80 drums of sulfuric acid and more than 400 bags of caustic soda to make meth, Deputy Customs Commissioner Danilo Lim said.
Anti-narcotics agents were trying to find the sender and would-be recipient of the shipment, Lim said. The seized equipment strongly resembled items found in a drug-manufacturing hideout raided recently in an upscale Manila enclave, he added.
Methamphetamine is known locally as "shabu."
The Philippines continues to face an alarming drug problem despite efforts to disrupt major trafficking syndicates and dismantle clandestine labs. Corruption among law enforcers and officials and vast stretches of unpatrolled coastline make the country an attractive narcotics source and transshipment point.
Illegal drug production in the Philippines carries a maximum prison term of 40 years.