How many pushers, addicts are there?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2019 - 12:00am

The PNP Directorate for Operations collates the latest drug war statistics: At least 6,600 pushers and users were killed in shootouts with police from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019. Another 240,565 were arrested and are now crammed to overcapacity in jails. Plus, 1,283,409 were home-visited by cops and warned to desist or else. The figures do not include those killed by vigilantes and rival narco-gangs. Or, those who have been rehabbed or still in clinic.

The persistent finding though is that nearly all pushers are users who crave to sustain their vice. And their drug of choice is shabu (meth).

So how many more of them remain out there?

Obviously lots more, going by frequent interdiction of shabu by the tons, worth billions of pesos, at seaports and secret factories. Supply reflects demand; the risk of trafficking in huge volumes, for huge profits, indicates huge demand. A ton of shabu equals a million one-gram sachets, good for two to five hits over as many days, depending on gravity of addiction. Recent foiled shabu smugglings at the Manila container port reached hundreds of tons. Successful sneak-ins can only be guessed from street-price fluctuations. Example is the discovery in a Cavite warehouse last year of emptied magnetic lifters, similar to those in which shabu was found at the Manila piers. Street prices suddenly dropped as volumes in the hands of arrested pushers rose; narco-lords apparently were striving to dispose of stocks fast.

Still, those details do not show the number of remnant druggies. Street-level surveys and research are needed. Of the 42,045 barangays nationwide, 12,177 were cleared of the menace. Still drug-plagued are 20,471, or 48.69 percent. Of those, 282 are seriously affected, 10,835 are moderately, and 9,354 slightly. Worst are in Metro Manila, 88.6 percent of barangays affected; Central Visayas, 76.36 percent; Central Luzon, 75.5 percent; and Bicol, 72.89 percent.

At the start of the drug war pushers-users were estimated at 3.6 to four million. That’s about three times those home-visited, around 1.3 million. Hopefully it should not mean three times the 6,600 still need to be slain, and three times the 240,000 need to be arrested to lick the drug scourge.

The better strategy is two-fold. One, wipe out the sources: makers and smugglers. Swift hefty rewards for tipsters can multiply the number of interdictions. Two, make people aware. Drug education can be done through media, especially television and cinema, and in schools. This can include reenactments of harrowing family experiences with pusher-addict kin. Publicizing the drug-affected and cleared barangays would prod citizen action.

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Two brand new bed-and-seat vacation ferries now ply Boracay – adding to the island paradise’s top-class features. Japan-made SWM Salve Regina and Starlite Archer sail daily to Boracay’s Caticlan landing from Batangas. Dennis Uy’s Chelsea Logistics offers four ride options: reclining airline-type seat, bunk bed, shared room for four or eight, and VIP cabin for four with bathroom. All classes were designed safe, comfy, and clean – not luxurious but right for the route. As millennials would say, “sakto lang.”

Boracay continues to top all tourist destinations in the Philippines. Reopened in Oct. after a six-month rehab, it lured 619,934 vacationists in the first quarter of 2019. Tourism officials noted a 12-percent jump from the same period last year. Environment breaches and congestion prompted the rehab. In 2017 Boracay was the Conde Nast Traveler readers’ choice as best island in the world. (Cebu/Visayas Islands and Palawan ranked as Asia’s second and third best in that survey by the international luxury and lifestyle magazine.)

Foreign and local tourists appreciate the cleanup, the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group reports. Nature preservation is foremost for visitors. Top attractions continue to be the powdery white sand beaches and calm, clear waters, group general manager Natividad Bernardino says. Cozy accommodations, easy transport, and nightlife come next. Eleven establishments were shut down for unsanitariness; 20 more face closure for easement violations. Rejected from the four-square-mile resort isle were huge but potentially ruinous casino investments from China and Korea. The long view is to balance economic boons from tourism with conservation.

The new ferries have convenient sail times: Salve Regina leaves Batangas port at 6 p.m. daily, Starlite Archer at 7:30 a.m. Arrive in ten hours. The next day Salve Regina leaves Caticlan port at 6 a.m., Starlite Archer at 7:30 p.m. Peak season rates start at P1,200; sizeable discounts during off-peak. The vessels also take on roll on-roll off cargo between Panay and Luzon.

Featured earlier in this space was Philippine Airlines-Maritime’s two new ferries from Kalibo International Airport straight to Boracay. Catamarans MV Malambing and MV Magalang sail daily, skirting the road trip. PAL passengers can book with their flights.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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