|The marijuana trade is making a come-back as the narcotic of choice among drug addicts with the supply of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu at an all-time low. |
An official of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, who requested anonymity, revealed that marijuana is reemerging as the “top seller” in the country.
The source told The Manila Times that an interagency effort had resulted in the reduction of the shabu supply to 65 percent from 100 percent, with the dismantling of several clandestine laboratories and storage facilities around the country.
Since 1997, when the first shabu manufacturing facility was discovered in Angeles City, 38 clandestine laboratories have been dismantled by government antinarcotics agents mostly in Metro Manila, resulting in the seizure of tons of shabu and its chemical precursors.
Six of the 38 laboratories were shut down this year. It was also this year that a clandestine laboratory was discovered in Mandaue City in the Visayas resulting in the arrest of 11 suspects and the confiscation of 675 kilograms of shabu.
Some P7.69-billion worth of precursor chemicals were confiscated this year.
Deputy Director General Ricardo de Leon, concurrent AID-SOFT commander and deputy chief of administration, said this was a considerably low yield of shabu, compared with last year’s supply worth P20.19 billion.
“This has led us to conclude that we’re dealing a lot of damage to the illegal drug trade and we’ve significantly reduced the supply of shabu in the market,” de Leon said.
He attributes the reduction of the supply to the identification of landing points of the illegal drugs.
Among identified landing points are Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Zambales, Aurora, Quezon, Mindoro Occidental, and Mindoro Oriental. The suspected landing areas are Palawan, Masbate, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Davao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. These provinces have open ports.
There are 107 identified marijuana plantation sites around the country from a low of nine three decades ago when they were first discovered.
Based on task force records, there is an upsurge in the rate of confiscation and eradication of the illegal drug.
In 2002 the task force operatives destroyed approximately 5.11 million marijuana plants and seedlings. The following year, they destroyed 5.29 million. A vast reduction of seizures was posted in 2004 at 2.38 million. This year, the anti-illegal drug group destroyed 8.03 million plants and seedlings.
Besides marijuana, the drug syndicates are eyeing the sale of other methamphetamine derivatives such as ketamine.
Four ketamine laboratories were dismantled this year by joint teams of the task force and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Ketamine is an anaesthetic for veterinary, specifically horses, as well as human use. The drug takes the form of a white crystalline powder, a liquid, or a tablet and is the drug of choice among addicts in the United States and Australia, commonly sold at dance parties or “raves.”
As a result, antinarcotics agents seized 32,300 vials of the drug, 38.83 kilograms in powdered form.
De Leon said that they are stalking the drug syndicates which have started to look for alternative products to sell.
There are at least 124 drug syndicates, local and foreign groups, operating in the country. They remain the subject of massive police surveillance and dragnet operations.