An agent from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Anti-Illegal Drugs Task Force inspects a sample tablet intercepted from parcels containing an estimated three million pesos ($64,400) worth of ecstasy pills from Germany at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, during a news briefing at the BOC headquarters in Pasay City, metro Manila, Philippines August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco(reuters_tickers)
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines government said on Wednesday it had summoned the Chinese ambassador earlier this week to explain reports that traffickers were bringing in narcotics from China, opening a new front in President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial war on drugs.
On Tuesday, the country's police chief told a Senate hearing that China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were major sources of illegal drugs, and Chinese triads were involved in trafficking.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the Chinese ambassador had been summoned for an explanation, and the government would also send a diplomatic communication to Beijing to "pursue this in a more aggressive note."
Speaking to Reuters, Yasay recounted his exchange with the envoy.
"(The ambassador) said that this is not true and I told him these reports are based on intelligence information, they have been validated so far as we are concerned, so I wanted a clarification from him," Yasay said.
More than 1,900 people have been killed in the anti-drugs campaign since Duterte, nicknamed "the Punisher", came to office seven weeks ago, according to the police, and nearly 700,000 drug users and drug peddlers have turned themselves in to escape the crackdown.
Speaking at a military base outside Manila on Wednesday, Duterte said China has offered to build rehabilitation centres for drug addicts in military camps and has invited the Philippine police chief to visit Beijing to see what equipment Chinese police use to fight drugs.
China imposes capital punishment on drug offences.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)