Illicit drug trafficking in the Philippines remains difficult to bring to a halt due to new modus operandi and the involvement of persons of authority. Although there are measures to combat illicit drug syndicates, statistics show that this is still an alarming predicament in the country.

Marijuana and methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) remain the preferred drugs by the drug users, thus making it still the most available drugs in the country. Along with ephedrine and methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA) or ecstasy, these substances are at an alarming rate of cultivation (growth, production, and possession), trade, and consumption.

According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), some areas of the country are conducive for marijuana cultivation, especially in mountainous areas of Northern Luzon, Eastern Visayas and Mindanao. Marijuana produced locally are distributed domestically and exported to other countries. Statistics also imply that the local distribution of marijuana increased in 2012, deeming that the eradication of plantation sites do not necessarily translate to the decrease or elimination of the illicit trade and use of marijuana in the country.

Since 2010, drug syndicates established small-scale laboratories and kitchen-type clandestine laboratories to lower the risk of detection of shabu production. From renting warehouses to be used as shabu laboratories, syndicates shifted to renting houses in exclusive subdivisions, condominiums and apartments. Medium-type to kitchen-type shabu laboratories have resorted to operations in posh villages and condominiums in order to further conceal their activities. Private properties are becoming the popular target of syndicates in manufacturing illicit drugs, mainly due to the lower risk of detection these locations provide.

Transnational organized crime groups add to the establishment of clandestine drug laboratories and importation of more and more illicit drugs. The exploitation of understaffed and under-resourced law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have also become evident over the past years, further targeting the weak judicial system of the country in order to easily penetrate drug supply chains in the domestic market.

Due to the geological make-up of the country, the Philippines is being continuously used as a transshipment hub of illegal drug traffickers, both local and foreign. The vast shorelines of central and southern Philippines are suspected to be the landing and/or entry points of illegal drugs from China. Further, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) continues to be the preferred trafficking avenue for illegal drugs in small quantities from less than one kilo to multi-kilo transshipments by drug traders/drug mules. Reports indicate that drug mules have taken to hiding/concealing their illegal cargo in secret compartments of their suitcase, shoes, books or clothes they are wearing; or place them in the bottom part of luggage, inside handbag, in shoe boxes, bottles, parcels, or other objects. Others go as far as wrapping up drugs around their body, undergoing minor surgery to put the drugs inside their body or ingesting the dangerous drugs to avoid detection. Female drug couriers were found to be forced to insert the package into their private parts while male drug mules are instructed to insert the drugs directly into their anuses. These methods are common but dangerous ways of smuggling small amounts of drugs and a courier can die if a drug packet bursts or leaks before exiting the body.

With increasing cases of illicit drug trade, authorities emphasized the importance of law enforcement measures with the enactment of R.A. 9165 to deal with the drug problem in the country. From January to December 2012, a total number of 9,885 nationwide operations have been conducted by PDEA, which led to the arrest of at least 10,159 persons. A majority of 5,724 of this number were identified as drug pushers, and 1,965 as users. A total number of 12,534 cases have been filed in the same duration covered.

he Philippines also remains a partner in the areas of international cooperation, intelligence exchange, and regional meetings as far as curbing drug trafficking is concerned. This can be seen in the bilateral ties being maintained with Japan, the US, Australia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other countries composing the ASEAN Senior Officials meeting on Dangerous Drugs (ASOD) and the Heads of National Law Enforcement Agencies Dangerous Drugs (HONLEA)..

@Copyright 2010 Philippine Center on Transnatinal Crime