ILLEGAL drugs remained a menace in more than 8,000 villages in the Philippines as of January, the presidential palace said on Monday.

A quarter or 8,585 out of 42,046 villages nationwide remained affected by illegal drugs, the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement, citing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“A total of 6,109 barangays were declared [drug-]free as of January this year, the majority of which were from Eastern Visayas with 1,380 barangays,” it said. 

Metro Manila had the highest number of drug cases, accounting for 53.9% of the total. The Mimaropa region in southern Luzon had the lowest number of cases at 2.8%.

Authorities seized about P590 million worth of illegal drugs, arrested 4,499 drug suspects and filed 7,720 cases in January, it added.

Among illegal drugs seized during PDEA operations in January were crystal meth worth P403.4 million, cocaine powder worth P15.9 million, ecstasy tablets worth P19.9 million and kush worth P19.8 million. Also seized were millions of pesos worth of marijuana, the palace said.

Crystal meth or shabu was the most frequently used drug in the country, accounting for 94.6% or 4,258 of arrests nationwide, it said. It was followed by marijuana, with 5.3% or 240 drug cases.

“Authorities have intensified their surveillance and monitoring of the country’s airports, seaports, as well as mail and parcel services to prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals into the country,” the palace said.

It said PDEA had been boosting international cooperation to fight the illegal drug trade. It has partnered with the US, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and the United Nations to combat the plague, it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza