The Chinese Triad is one of the most impenetrable and dominant players in the Philippine crime scene. The most active Chinese Triad groups operating in the Philippines are:

  1. Big Circle Gang
  2. United Bamboo Gang
  3. 14K Gang
  4. Ghost Shadows, and
  5. San Yee On

The Chinese Triad operating in the country has six (6) main components or groups. These are the "Big Bosses", "Shipping Group", "Re-Processing and Local Manufacturing Group", "Distributors", "Underground Remittance Center," also known as the "Binondo Central Bank", and the "Troubleshooters Group."

Big Bosses

Li Wen Feng
a.k.a. Ah Tau
of Macau

The Chinese Triad Big Bosses are the main financiers and organizers of large scale drug trafficking from Mainland China into the Philippines. They also set the drug prices and supply volume in the Philippine market.

The Chinese Triad Big Bosses are based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, and they rarely visit the Philippines. Instead, they operate their drug trafficking activities through an extensive network of smaller groups composed of Chinese nationals recruited mainly from Mainland China. Loyalty from Triad members is ensured through an honor code system, whereby the Triad members' family in Mainland China are held responsible for their actions here in the Philippines.

The latest intelligence information also indicate that the Japanese Yakuza has re-directed their focus on shabu drug trafficking and has forged alliances with Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Triads.

During the course of operations, five (5) Big Bosses from this criminal alliance were identified. They are:

  1. Li Wen Feng a.k.a. Ah-Tau, based in Macau;
  2. Chong Yuk Sui a.k.a. Ah Sui, based in Hong Kong;
  3. a.k.a. Lau Bam, also based in Hong Kong;
  4. Makoto Nakagawa, based in Japan; and,
  5. Teng Kuo Liang, based in Taiwan.

Hong Kong Police narcotics intelligence reports disclosed that MARY ONG was closely associated with Big Boss Chong Yuk Sui a.k.a. Ah-Sui. She worked as the group's finance officer and was in-charge of its money laundering activities. She later shifted to shipping medium-scale drug trafficking (30-40 kgs) operations from Hong Kong to Manila. Her main targets for delivery were the Muslim drug syndicates based in Manila and Zamboanga City, Mindanao.

Shipping Group

The Philippine-based and the Hong-Kong-based Chinese Triad Groups conduct business meetings in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and China regarding the details of their drug shipments.

The drug prices are determined by the "risks" that each distribution point undergo as the drugs turned from hand to hand. Shipments brought directly to the Philippines command the highest price, followed by Hong Kong, and least of all, in China.

There can be as much as 20 Chinese partners involved in a large-scale drug shipment, with an average of 200 - 250 kilograms per shipment. There is no established regular schedule of drug shipment destined for Philippine consumption. The drug shipments are arranged on a per order basis. Further, the "Shipping Group" sends 1 - 2 tons of shabu monthly from Mainland China via Philippines to other foreign countries, especially, Australia and Japan.

One of the Shipping Groups was identified as a big-time rice and grains merchant, based in Manila and Central Luzon. The alleged shipper is responsible for arranging the drug shipments of several drug pipelines from Mainland China into the Philippines. Intelligence information also indicated that the said merchant may be using his rice and grain storage facilities as fronts for his drug trafficking activities.

The suspected Chinese Triad shipping boss was described as a well-respected member of the Filipino-Chinese community. Reportedly, he was often engaged in charity projects and activities.

Re-Processing and Local Manufacturing Group

CHUA Hui-Yue
@ Leo CHUA

The Chinese Triad often import shabu chemical components, especially "Ephedrine," from the "Golden Triangle" (Laos, Burma, Cambodia) and India. It is then smuggled into the Philippines and the Re-Processing and Manufacturing Group handle its processing to produce locally-manufactured shabu. The PNP had already raided clandestine shabu laboratories in Cagayan Valley, Quezon City, and Lipa City, where Ephedrine chemicals were recovered.

The Chinese Triad re-process the shabu shipments to suit certain specifications of drug clients with regards to "purity" and "color" or the quality of shabu. In general. High quality shabu commands higher market prices, while lower quality commands lower market price. The latter is sold easily because it is more affordable.

The Chinese Triad produces three (3) classes of shabu quality, and each class is described distinctly by their color, namely: Class "A" which has a "whitish" color; Class "B" which has a slightly "yellowish" color; and Class "C" which has a slightly "brownish" color.


The Chinese Triad also enforces the honor code with local distributors, who are given loads of shabu on consignment or cash basis. Those who do not pay well and on time are given limited supply, if not, they are given up for other better paying customers in order for the big bosses to make a high profit margin.

And if they do not pay at all, the Chinese Triad assemble hit squads who abduct them, subject them to physical torture, and demand payment from their families as part of the Triad honor code.

All groups working as shabu distributors hire Chinese persons to act as delivery boys and collectors of payments from buyers. These Triad operatives are commonly known in the narcotics intelligence community as "mules". Each "mule" receives Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) pesos for every One (1) kilogram of shabu delivered.

Most of these "mules" are convicted criminals in China or persons with pending arrest warrants in China and have nowhere else to go. Intelligence sources report that some of these "mules" are Chinese ex-policemen, who have pending arrest warrants.

About a dozen of distributor groups operating in the country have been identified, and most of them are based in Metro Manila. Each of these groups is equipped with several vehicles, mostly high-end models, capable of outrunning law enforcement service vehicles. They are equipped with high-powered firearms and high-tech communication systems. These are provided in order to ensure the smooth delivery of drugs.

The local distributor bosses and their marketing agents spend their leisure hours at the 15th floor of a Chinatown building, where Chinese prostitutes entertain them. This exclusive club is allegedly co-owned by a former Manila City official, where each Chinese customer could easily fork out One Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (P150,000.00) a night.

"Binondo Central Bank" or Underground Remittance Group:

CAI Wan-Fen
@ Lily Chua
(Finance Officer)

The Underground Remittance Group is actually a composite organization of establishments engaged in money laundering activities. This group is also known as the "Binondo Central Bank".

The "Binondo Central Bank" is a part of the Chinese Triad's drug trafficking operations responsible for laundering drug profits to disguise their illegal origin. This group is of critical importance, as it enables the Big Bosses to enjoy their profits without jeopardizing its illegal source.

The Chinese Triad's modes of payment are either in cash or wire transfers, and through dollar remittances hidden in legal accounts in the Philippines and Hong Kong. Large sums of drug money are laundered through the "Binondo Central Bank". Normally, the accounts transfers and financial transactions are in Hong Kong dollars.

A suspected money-laundering group had been identified resulting from intelligence operations against the Chinese Triad. The head of this group is based in Central Luzon. She also has her own distribution organization, as some of her commissions from money laundering are paid in equivalent shabu volumes.

Troubleshooters Group

Absolute secrecy is a must, hence in case of any arrest, no distributors are supposed to squeal on their drug source. The Big Bosses provide help by employing the ablest lawyers, PR doctors, police, military, and government connections, so that the heat of the investigation will not flourish to the point of pinning down its members.

There are five (5) important connections that the Chinese Triad maintains and these are at the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and several travel agencies.


Intelligence operations have identified a member of this group to be a club owner in Caloocan City. He was once arrested in 1999 during an entrapment operation at the Western Police District Office for attempting to bribe police officers in exchange for the release of several arrested Chinese Triad members.

When efforts to bribe the PNP fail, the Triad has a group who is responsible of fixing their legal problems, especially criminal cases still on the preliminary investigation level. The DOJ's State Prosecutors are likewise offered large amounts of money in exchange for the case's dismissal, or filing of lesser offenses.


One of the Chinese Triad's suspected point man in the DOJ was identified as Angelito Sy a.k.a. Lito Sy. He is presently believed to be missing. He used to also act as the Triad's point man in settling cases with various PNP offices.


The Chinese Triad is also actively involved in human smuggling, particularly at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Intelligence reports show that the Triad has long stopped employing Filipino-Chinese members in their drug trafficking activities. They encounter a shortage in manpower whenever there are arrests made by the PNP. In some instances, they deport some of their rogue members and have them changed with better performing ones. The smuggling of illegal Chinese aliens into the country is their main mode of filling their ranks with newly recruited members. Therefore, establishing and maintaining links with the BID are of great importance. The Triad has groups dedicated to facilitate the illegal entry of Chinese nationals through bribery of some immigration officials.

It is interesting to note, that the Triad likewise use this group to facilitate the entry of Chinese prostitutes into the country to supply their clandestine prostitute establishments around Metro Manila. A member of this specialized group was identified after she extensively lobbied for the release of several women arrested by BID agents. It turned out that one of the girls was a girlfriend of a distributor boss. The BID deported the illegal Chinese aliens in this case.


The operation also identified one of the suspected Triad groups responsible for maintaining connections with the LTO. Since their drug trafficking activities mainly involve frequent transporting of shabu deliveries by undocumented aliens, it is therefore imperative for the groups to establish contacts with the LTO who provide them with fake driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, and other pertinent documents.

The Triad also maintains a group associated with travel agencies, which facilitate the issuance of their travel documents, travel itinerary, and other travel concerns. Intelligence operations have identified the suspected group to be based in Binondo, Manila. This group allows the Big Bosses to freely come in and out of the country, sometimes accommodating them under assumed identities. In some instances, this specialized group can arrange for the escape of certain drug personalities, who either have arrest warrants or who are being sought by our police authorities.

Trafficking Methods

The Chinese Triad uses 2 main modes of smuggling shabu in the Philippines, namely: Shipside Smuggling, which transpires in the high seas or anywhere along the coastal areas of northwestern Luzon and, Port Smuggling, which transpires either at the country's international airports and international shipping ports.

Shipside Smuggling

Shipping vessels engaged in shipside drug smuggling commonly originate from 3 main foreign ports located in Hainan Island, Hong Kong, and Macau. The ships simply follow the established shipping routes across the South China Sea and into the Philippine territorial waters. In the past, some ships originate from Taiwan and Japan. However, high shipping costs have deterred the Chinese Triad on arranging shipments from these locations.

The most common rendezvous points for shipside drug smuggling are at Poro Point in La Union, Bolinao in Pangasinan, Subic Bay, and Olongapo. These sites are well suited to shipside smuggling since they form natural bays or harbors, where rogue ships can safely unload their illegal cargo.

Port Smuggling

The modus operandi they commonly employ in shipping port drug smuggling is the use of legal shipment of export goods from China to the Philippines. The drugs are concealed in these shipments, which go through the normal channels and covered with the appropriate importation papers.

The drug packages are sometimes hidden and mixed with stuffed toys, slippers, plastic products, RTW clothes, video compact discs, rice, grain, vetsin, sardines, and other canned goods. They may also be concealed in machines, motor engines and cargo pallets as these have more chances of going through the Chinese and Philippine customs undetected.

In airport smuggling, one method used is through the postal system and air parcel services. This method of trafficking drugs was uncovered after authorities seized 20 kilograms of Shabu concealed in an air parcel package at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on September 1992. The recipient of the package was MARY ONG and she was arrested for drug trafficking.

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