Seventeen tell-tale signs of a shabu lab in your neighborhood

PDEA Chief Isidro Lapena Photo ©
PDEA Chief Isidro Lapena Photo ©

IN A bid to bolster the public’s awareness concerning the probable presence of a metamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) laboratories in the barangays, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has identified 17 tell-tale signs that could indicate the presence of a working clandestine illegal-drugs laboratory in the community.

The PDEA made the move after it realized that illegal drug manufacturers have moved their production in low key residential communities to avoid detection.

PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña said the list aims to promote public interest, raise awareness of the risks and dangers of shabu laboratories and seek support in finding these illegal facilities.

The following are the tell-tale signs to look out for that a clandestine shabu laboratory is likely operating in your neighborhood:

  1. Presence of large water tanks;
  2. Thick electrical wires for houses or facilities which should have normal-sized wires;
  3. Laboratory materials surrounding the properties like empty chemical bottles, drums and other types of chemical containers;
  4. Specially-constructed chimney or ventilation fan which run for extended hours to get rid of strong odors;
  5. Strong chemical odors (solvent-like) coming from the facility;
  6. Persons in the premises seldom come out but they do come out to smoke, to avoid igniting highly explosive chemicals inside;
  7. Excessive or irregular water waste coming out of the premises;
  8. Presence of waste chemicals;
  9. Discarded materials used to store chemicals;
  10. Residents who burn their trash instead of discarding them;
  11. Use of security cameras;
  12. Odd locks and bars on windows;
  13. Heavy security like the presence of watch dogs, high fences and barb wires;
  14. Every opening of the facility is covered or tinted;
  15. Persons going about their business at odd hours;
  16. No traffic during daytime, but traffic at wee hours; and
  17. The presence of frequent visitors on expensive cars.

“The public should watch out for these 17 tell-tale signs showing the existence of a shabu laboratory in their neighborhood. You might be living near or next to one but unaware of it,” Lapeña said, adding that the successful dismantling of these illegal facilities will significantly suppress the drug supply in the market.

In 2016, eight clandestine shabu laboratories were discovered and shut down nationwide.

“Five of these, which include shabu facilities in Pamplona, Las Piñas City;  Subic, Zambales; Barangay Apolonia, Quezon City; Magalang, Pampanga; and Arayat, Pampanga, were dismantled during the first 100 days of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Lapeña  noted.

Manufacturing trends have also evolved, from large scale/industrial type production to small scale/kitchen type labs. Another trend that was observed during the clan lab dismantling operations in the country is that the production processes were done in stages, with separate and distinct areas for each phase unlike the traditional method of doing the whole production process in one location. This method lessens the possibility of detection of the entire production site used.

Dead or dying trees, plants and grass in the immediate vicinity are no longer frequently observed as signs of presence of shabu laboratory but there is a recent resurgence of the use of agricultural animal facilities (pig farms) and sea vessels as fronts for illegal drug production.

Shabu is manufactured through one cooking cycle which is about an average of 2-3 days. An industrial-type shabu laboratory can produce more than 50 kilograms of shabu in one complete cooking cycle.

“You can imagine how much illegal drugs it can produce in a matter of days,” Lapeña added.

PDEA encourages the citizenry to report suspected illegal drug activities and presence of a clandestine laboratory in their community by texting PDEA 24/7 SMS/Text Center’s numbers: For SMART subscribers, 09998887332.  Globe and Sun Cellular subscribers may use the number 09279150616 and 09255737332, respectively, or by calling mobile number 09393960627 and landline numbers (02) 920-0735 and (02) 920-0736.

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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