Illegal drug trade in the Philippines

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The prevalence of drug use in the Philippines is lower than the global average, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).[1] Two of the most used and valuable illegal drugs in the country are methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) and marijuana.[2][3] Ephedrine and methylenedioxy methamphetamine are also among the list of illegal drugs that are of great concern to the authorities.[4] According to Reuters, the then President-elect of the Philippines and now president Rodrigo Duterte has predicted the country could become a 'narco-state' if the country's tide of drug addiction is not pushed back. In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia, and according to a U.S. State Department report, 2.1 percent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 use the drug, which is known locally as Shabu .[5] On Metro Manila, most barangays are being affected by illegal drugs.[2] According to the 2011 UN Drug Report, the Philippines has the highest methamphetamine hydrochloride abuse rate in East Asia.[6]

Production Justine Pingol[edit]


The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency identified that the mountainous parts of Northern Luzon, Eastern Visayas and Mindanao are viable for marijuana cultivation. Marijuana produced in the country is distributed locally and is also exported to other countries. Local distribution of marijuana increased in 2012 despite destruction of illegal marijuana plantations.[4]

Methamphetamine Production[edit]

Drug syndicates have been producing methamphetamine in small-scale and kitchen-type laboratories to avoid detection by the Philippine authorities since 2010. Usually, drug syndicates rent warehouses for use as drug laboratories. These syndicates have moved towards renting houses in private subdivisions, condominiums and apartments to be used as bases for their illegal drug production. Private properties are becoming more favorable to drug syndicates as sites of illegal drug production.[4]

Methamphetamine remains more feasible to sell in the Philippines than cocaine, a more costly illegal drug.[7]

Owing to its geographical location, international drug syndicates use the Philippines as a transit hub for the illegal drug trade.[2][8] Some local drug syndicates are also involved in the international illegal drug trade, and utilize drug mules to transport small amounts of illegal drugs to other countries. Some overseas Filipino workers have been utilized by drug syndicates as drug mules, either knowingly or unknowingly. Most Filipino drug mules, mainly women, are sent to China, where drug convicts will face execution via lethal injection.[9] The Ninoy Aquino International Airport has been identified as a favorable illegal drug trafficking hub.[4]

Some Filipinos choose to be involved in drug trafficking due to the promise of a high income. Some still participate in such illicit activity because they are forced by certain circumstances. There were reports in the past that some Filipinos, usually women, were forced and blackmailed by drug syndicates to work as drug couriers, and if they refused, their family's safety would be compromised.[10]

The Manila-based firm, Pacific Strategies & Assessments, identified the Philippines as, "not only a transhipment point, but also a key producer of synthetic drugs for all of Asia" in a report made in 2009.[11]

In December 2013, the Philippine National Police - Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force and the Philippine Drug Enforcement confirmed reports that the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel had started operations in the country.[10][12]

Chinese Cartel Involvement[edit]

About nine Chinese drug cartels are involved on most illegal drug trade in the Philippines.[13] The U.S. Department of State found out that Chinese drug cartels are behind the trade of methamphetamine hydrochloride on the Philippines.[2][6]

President divulged the names of the members of a large Chinese triad group in an interview with PTV-4 on July 7. The members of the triad group included Chinese drug lords, namely Wu Tuan, aka tatay Co, Peter Lim, aka tiger balm, and Herbert Colangco, with the three under the protection of Marcelo Garbo Jr, one of the Philippine National Police generals named by Duterte on July 5.[14]

Trade Value[edit]

As of 2013, the illegal drug trade in the Philippines amounted to $8.4 billion.[7]

Party Drugs[edit]

MDMA (ecstasy), one of the party drugs, is the third most abused drug, next to cannabis and methamphetamine.[15]

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency discovered the production of "fly high", after a raid on a condominium unit in Makati.[16] The effects of use of fly high includes sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and high libido.[17]

Drug Use Among Minors[edit]

Inhalants are commonly used among minors, especially street children.[15] Street children in the Philippines are most likely to be inhalant abusers.[18]

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency statistics of 2014 recorded 40% of minors arrested for drug possession,[19] and drug syndicates use children as drug pushers.[20] Children arrested for drug possession or use are brought to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in compliance to Republic Act No. 9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006).[20]

Campaign Against Illegal Drugs[edit]

Rodrigo Duterte, after his inauguration on June 30, called a speech full of swearing in Tondo, Manila and urged people to kill drug pushers in exchange for bounty.[21]


Most arrests related to illegal drugs involves users of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).[2][22]

Involvement of government officials and employees[edit]

From 2010 to 2015, 623 government officials and employees were arrested for drug possession, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Of these, 45% were government employees while 30% were elected officials and 25% were police. Several government officials have been arrested for drug possession, like former PDEA Special Enforcement Service director and Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino but released months later after some clarification in the ongoing investigation.[23]

There are also alleged involvement of Philippine National Police generals on drug trade. On July 5, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte named 5 generals alleged to be involved in drugs, namely Marcelo Garbo Jr., Joel Pagdilao, Edgardo Tinio, Bernardo Diaz, and Vic Loot. All of the five claim they did not have any involvement in illegal drugs.[24]

In his I am sorry for my country speech, President Duterte revealed the names of 150 government officials that have been found to be involved in illegal drug trade. There have also been allegations of government officials' involvement in illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.


About 1,000 drug pushers and users have been killed in police operations and around 1,000 killed in drug-related incidents since Rodrigo Duterte was inaugurated on June 30, 2016.[25]


Ifugao congressman Teodoro Baguilat and senator Leila de Lima called for an investigation on the cases of killings of drug pushers by police, due to the alarming rise of deaths of drug pushers in police operations. Baguilat expressed concerns on the rising number of deaths of drug pushers and users that if the rate of deaths of drug pushers and users continue to increase, people will soon be involved in killing suspected drug personalities.[26]


The New People's Army supports Duterte's war against drugs, especially on government officials, police, and the military.[27]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Philippines: Duterte’s 100 days of carnage". Amnesty International. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ranada, Pia (January 5, 2016). "A look at the state of crime, drugs in the Philippines". Rappler. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Fact on Drugs". Dangerous Drugs Board. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Illicit Drug Trafficking". Philippine Center on Transnational Crime. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Mogato, Manuel; Chalmers, John (June 29, 2016). "As Duterte takes over in Philippines, police killings stir fear". Reuters. 
  6. ^ a b Esplanada, Jerry E. (June 28, 2012). "Chinese drug syndicates behind drug trade in Philippines, says US". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Dizon, David (26 December 2013). "World's most powerful drug cartel now in PH". Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Sy Egco, Joel M. (January 1, 2014). "PH center of world drug trade". The Manila Times. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Filipino drug mules". Al Jazeera. April 5, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Arcangel, Xianne (20 August 2013). "Pinoys still being nabbed for drugs abroad despite executions". GMA News. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Karl (15 March 2010). "Philippines poll 'hit by drugs trade'". The National. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  12. ^ PDEA 2013, p. 17.
  13. ^ Ramirez, Robertzon (November 27, 2016). "Chinese gangs behind Philippine illegal drug trade". The Philippine Star. Philstar. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  14. ^ Kabiling, Genalyn (July 7, 2016). "Palace reveals Chinese triad involved in illegal drugs". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b PDEA 2012, p. 15.
  16. ^ Villamente, Jing (January 28, 2014). "'Fly high' pill a mixture of ecstasy, shabu, viagra". The Manila Times. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  17. ^ Cupin, Bea (May 21, 2014). "PH 'fly high' drug: Lethal mix of ecstasy, shabu". Rappler. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  18. ^ Njord, L; Merrill, RM; Njord, R; Lindsay, R; Pachano, JD (April 22, 2016). "Drug use among street children and non--street children in the Philippines". Asia Pacific Journal on Public Health. 22: 203–11. PMID 20457649. doi:10.1177/1010539510361515. 
  19. ^ Ramirez, Robertzon (February 22, 2015). "More minors arrested for drugs in 2014". The Philippine Star. Philstar. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  20. ^ a b Yap, DJ (June 11, 2011). "More kids used in drug trade". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte urged people to kill drug addicts". Associated Press. July 1, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2016 – via The Guardian. 
  22. ^ PDEA 2013, p. 14.
  23. ^ Santos, Elmor P. (February 4, 2016). "Drug relate arrests involving gov't officials, employees increasing - PDEA". CNN Philippines. Retrieved May 7, 2016. 
  24. ^ Ranada, Pia (July 5, 2016). "Duterte names alleged police generals in drug trade". Rappler. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Dozens killed in first four days of Duterte's drug war". Al Jazeera. July 5, 2016. Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
  26. ^ Dumlao, Artemio (July 8, 2016). "Congress eyes probe on spate of drug killings". The Philippine Star. Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
  27. ^


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