MANILA Philippine authorities arrested six people and seized $67 million worth of methamphetamine on Friday, in one of the biggest narcotics hauls of a nationwide drugs war that has focused heavily on eliminating street-level dealers.
Agents from the National Bureau of Investigation swooped down on a quiet neighbourhood in San Juan City in the capital Manila and found 560 kg of what they believe was "shabu" stored in 56 bags.
Police said officers were still compiling an inventory of the drugs.
The amount seized on Friday, if verified, would be bigger than the entire amount of shabu seized nationwide last year, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Some 450 kg of the highly addictive methamphetamine were discovered in anti-narcotics operations in 2015.
Police said six people were in the house where the drugs were seized. Three were Filipino and the others were either Taiwanese or Chinese, police said.
The seizure will be a boost for President Rodrigo Duterte, who has come under heavy international criticism for a bloody war on drugs that has seen low-level dealers and users bear the brunt of the crackdown, rather than kingpins behind the trade.
According to drug enforcement officials who spoke to Reuters recently, Chinese are among the "cooks" and "chemists" brought to the Philippines to create shabu, the price of which has risen sharply since Duterte launched his campaign.
More than a dozen Chinese nationals have so far been arrested as part of the campaign.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in the crackdown since Duterte took office in July, roughly a third in police operations. The other deaths are classified as under investigation, many believed to be the work of vigilantes.
"We have been watching the house for more than a month after an informant came to authorities, telling us about the illegal drugs trade in the area," said Easter Police District chief Romulo Sapitula.
"We were armed with a search warrant after confirming the existence of drugs inside."
He said the arrested men denied knowledge of the seized drugs.
($1 = 50 pesos)
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty)