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RP tops amphetamine abuse, says int’l drugs body

THE ABUSE of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) like shabu has increased in the Philippines even as opium, codeine and heroin use has gone down in some East and Southeast Asian countries, according to a report by an international drug regulatory body.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said that shabu, or methamphetamine hydrochloride, has become “the most popular drug of abuse” in the Philippines, but did not cite any statistics.

The region’s authorities “continue to make significant seizures” of ephedrine, a substance used in the illicit manufacture of ATS, the INCB said in its 2001 report released last Tuesday at an international conference on drugs at the foreign affairs department.

Dr. Sandro Calvani, the United Nations drug control program representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, made the same observation in a report, “Regional Drug Control Profile for Southeast Asia and the Pacific,” that he delivered at the conference.

“Crystal methamphetamine is the favored drug for consumption in the Philippines,” he said, adding that 10 percent of the population was drug-dependent.

Police Director Efren Fernandez, chief of the Narcotics Group, agreed with the INCB and Calvani’s findings. He attributed shabu’s popularity among local drug users to its “mass appeal.”

“It’s made for the masses; it’s much cheaper than Ecstasy,” he said, referring to the drug of choice at nightclubs and parties.

The INCB said there were indications that shabu, also known as “ice,” was being illegally manufactured in the country, noting the discovery and dismantling of two large clandestine drug laboratories last year in Batangas and in Pasig City that were secretly manufacturing huge quantities of the illegal substance.

Most of the shabu available in the country is being smuggled in from South China and other neighboring countries, but some of it is now being produced here, said Calvani.

Calvani said the production of shabu here was a growing problem, adding that the Philippines now exports the drug to Japan, Australia, Korea, the United States, Guam and Spain.

“The Philippines continues to serve as a transit point and producer of crystal methamphetamine,” Calvani said.

Fernandez maintained, however, that the Philippines neither produces shabu in large quantities nor exports the drug to other countries.

“We don’t grow ephedra, the main ingredient for the manufacture of shabu. We’re just being used as a transit point because of our strategic location,” he said in a phone interview.

But he did not discount the possibility that shabu was being produced locally, noting the number of clandestine laboratories that had been detected and dismantled.

Last month, the NarcGroup raided a high-tech shabu laboratory in a middle-class neighborhood of San Juan, which was believed to have been operating for the past five years. Some 500 million pesos worth of shabu was seized in the raid.

Reuters, 2 Mar 2002

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