Emerging trends and concerns

  • The manufacture, trafficking and use of crystalline methamphetamine continues to be the primary drug threat in the Philippines, and crystalline methamphetamine continues to account for most drug-related arrests and drug treatment admissions in the country.
  • The manufacture and trafficking of crystalline methamphetamine by transnational organized criminal groups from China and West Africa is of major concern.
  • There are indications that the use of crystalline methamphetamine is increasing among women.

Overview of the drug situation

Crystalline methamphetamine remains the most problematic drug of use in the Philippines, even though domestic manufacture of methamphetamine appears to be on the decline. Of the 2,744 reported cases from treatment and rehabilitation facilities in the Philippines in 2013, approximately 79% were methamphetamine users and 34% were cannabis users. According to a survey conducted by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), in 2012 there were an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the Philippines. Crystalline methamphetamine users also continue to account for the majority of drug-related arrests, and there are indicators to suggest crystalline methamphetamine use has been increasing recently among women. Ecstasy use remains limited. A large number of drug users in the Philippines are poly drug users.

The use of new psychoactive substances is limited in the Philippines. Ketamine use has taken place for a number of years, but it is not widespread. In addition, a large portion of the pills sold as ‘ecstasy’ in the Philippines contain BZP rather than MDMA (or its analogues). Some seized pills, referred to as “Fly High”, were found to contain MDMA and methamphetamine, and 534 capsules were seized from December 2013 through March 2014. A new product sold in capsules as ‘Green Apple’ suspected to contain NPS has been detected on the market.

Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in the Philippines, 2009-2013 

Three-fourths of the persons in treatment centers in 2013 were crystalline methamphetamine users, which is higher than the proportion as in previous years when about two-thirds were crystalline methamphetamine users. The 2,650 persons treated for crystalline methamphetamine use in 2013 is an increase of approximately 26% from 2,111 in the previous year. Of the 212 women in drug treatment in 2013, about 74% were crystalline methamphetamine users, previously making up 68% in 2012, 75% in 2011 and 62% in 2010. The 20 persons in treatment for ‘ecstasy’ use in 2013 continued to make up less than 1% of all persons admitted to drug treatment that year.

Table 2. Drug treatment admissions in the Philippines by drug type, 2013

In 2013, some 837.6 kg of crystalline methamphetamine were seized in the Philippines, which marks a more than seven-fold increase from the previous year (112 kg) and the highest total recorded since 2008 (853.5 kg). In August 2013, 433.2 kg of crystalline methamphetamine were seized in a single case, in Subic, Zambales. In December 2013, 79 kg of crystalline methamphetamine were seized from a farm in Batangas Province, which was believed to have been trafficked into the country by a drug trafficking group based in Mexico.

Due to the limited size of the ecstasy market in the Philippines, the quantities of ecstasy pills seized in the country remain small relative to the region. In 2013, 52 ecstasy pills were seized, the lowest total reported during the past six years.

During the first six months of 2014, approximately 135.2 kg of crystalline methamphetamine and 1,542 ecstasy pills were seized, in addition to 273.3 kg of ephedrine, of which 248.2 kg were seized in a single case, in January.

Table 3. Seizures of selected drugs and precursors in the Philippines, 2009-2013 

A large portion of crystalline methamphetamine continues to be illicitly manufactured in the Philippines. Since 2008, a total of 41 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories have been dismantled, with just one small-scale laboratory dismantled in 2013 (and one in 2014). In addition, syndicates from mainland China and Hong Kong continue to smuggle large quantities of crystalline methamphetamine into the Philippines through seaports and airports from China, and are also involved in manufacturing crystalline methamphetamine in the country. Some quantities are smuggled from Malaysia. More recently, methamphetamine has been smuggled into the Philippines via postal services and air couriers from Myanmar, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Africa. In recent years, there has been an emergence of African manufactured methamphetamine, as well as cocaine, trafficked via the Philippines to markets in Southeast Asia by passenger planes.