US: Drug money may affect RP elections, Philippines’ narcotics trade placed at $8.4B
By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The US State Department has expressed deep concern that drug money could affect the outcome of the May 10 elections in the Philippines.
In its 2010 international narcotics control strategy report released in Washington on Tuesday, the state department said the Philippines’ drug problem continued to pose a significant national threat, despite reports of a possible decline in the supply and demand of illegal drugs in parts of the country.
The annual report to the US Congress, prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act, said that foreign-based drug trafficking operations remained the biggest challenge to Philippine law enforcement.
“With the upcoming 2010 elections there is fear that illicit narcotics funds may affect election results,” the 668-page report said on the section on the Philippines.
“The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has publicly expressed fears that illicit narcotics money could influence the 2010 elections, and has pledged to pursue any evidence of such influence in order to be able to carry out arrests,” it said.
The report described the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in 2009, covering drug and chemical control activities, as well as money laundering and financial crimes.
The value of illegal drugs trafficked in the Philippines was placed at $6.4 billion to $8.4 billion annually. The top three areas most affected were Cebu, northern Mindanao and Metro Manila.
Down to 1.7M drug users
The number of drug users in the Philippine, however, was estimated to have dropped from a high of 6.7 million to 1.7 million.
The average age of drug abusers is 28 of whom 57 percent are single, and 34 percent are unemployed. Male drug users outnumber females 9:1.
The report said the production of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu,” in the Philippines was now primarily carried out in kitchen-type clandestine laboratories, rather than the large “mega-labs” previously seen.
While marijuana remains the second choice of drug users behind methamphetamine, Ecstasy users have increased in Manila, and usage has spread to other regions of the country where there are affluent families and tourists, it said.
The report likewise noted that transnational drug groups such as the West African drugs syndicate continued to infiltrate the Philippines and recruit overseas Filipino workers as drug couriers to smuggle and transport illegal drugs to China, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Also, traffickers increasingly took advantage of the Philippines’ long and porous maritime borders to use the country as a transit point for high-grade cocaine and heroin shipments, primarily from India and Pakistan, the report said.
The report further said that the Philippines was a likely source of methamphetamine for other countries in East Asia and Oceania such as Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea.
In addition, the Philippines was described as a primary source of methamphetamine for Guam and Hawaii. It said the Philippines “produces, consumes and likely exports marijuana,” which is currently the second most-used drug in the country.
Marijuana remains the “starter drug,” and is also considered as an alternative choice when crystal methamphetamine is not available.
The report said that corruption continued to pose a problem in Philippine law enforcement due to low pay and lack of training, although law enforcement officials were trying to address this problem.
“The slow judicial process not only demoralizes law enforcement personnel, but also enables drug dealers to continue their drug business between court dates,” the report said.
It added that a dearth of financial resources had also hampered PDEA’s efforts to curb the illegal drug menace.