‘Shabu’ now costs more than ‘coke’
MANILA, Philippines—Unlike in other countries where the reverse is true, “shabu” in the Philippines is turning out to be the rich man’s cocaine or “coke.”
At P5,000 per gram, methamphetamine hydrochloride fetches a higher price than cocaine in the country, which counts among the most expensive markets for shabu in Asia, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“Cocaine is cheaper than shabu here,” said PDEA Director General Jose Gutierrez Jr., placing the street value of cocaine at P3,000-4,000 per gram.
“There’s no market for cocaine in the Philippines at all,” Gutierrez said in an interview last week.
On the other hand, shabu, dubbed the poor man’s cocaine, is bought and sold by people from virtually all segments of society, said PDEA Director Adrian Alvariño, head of the agency’s audit and monitoring team.
Figures from the United Nations (UN) World Drug Report for 2011 showed that as of 2009, the Philippines had the highest price in Asia for methamphetamine drugs sold at the wholesale level, ranging from $167,683.30 to $251,524.90 (P6.7 million-P10 million) per kilogram.
This is slightly higher than the PDEA’s own estimate of P5 million per kilogram. Retail figures for methamphetamine from the Philippines were not available in the UN report.
Indonesia was second at $154,280 to $205,708 per kg, followed by Singapore with $82,207.1 to $137,011.9, both at wholesale. Thailand, Japan and Bahrain also had relatively high prices for methamphetamine, while China was farther down the list at $6,000 to $12,000. No figure was available for Hong Kong on wholesale methamphetamine prices.
In contrast, although no figures for wholesale cocaine prices were available for the Philippines, the report indicated that cocaine is sold at wildly diverging wholesale prices in many other countries from a low of $600 per kilogram in Peru to a high of $1.8 million in Ukraine.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant, while shabu, another highly addictive drug with euphoria-inducing properties, is synthesized from artificial chemicals such as ephedrine. Both usually come in white powder form and are smoked, snorted or injected intravenously.
The PDEA attributes the high cost of shabu in the Philippines to its own efforts, as well as of other antinarcotics agencies, to make it extra difficult for drug manufacturers and distributors to operate here.
In fact, shabu is sold at much higher prices in the provinces. “In Metro Manila it’s P5,000 per gram, but in the provinces it can reach 5, 7, 8, 9 (thousand pesos),” Gutierrez said.
But rather than be a deterrent, this attracts drug syndicates even more, especially those from other countries, whose members attempt, with varying success, to bring their business to the Philippines, Gutierrez said.
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