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Philippine Authorities Step Up War on Drugs

Philippine security forces are stepping up their war against drugs. The top drug enforcement officer in the country warns the country is becoming a "narco-state".

Heavily armed Philippine drug enforcement agents prepare to raid a village north of Manila. The agents work with village leaders work to capture suspected sellers of methamphetamine, known as shabu.

The teams catch four men with methamphetamine.

Nearly 10 percent of the Philippines' 88 million people uses drugs. The United Nations says it has the highest incidence of methamphetamine use in the world.

"It's obvious that the country has been targeted by trans-national organized crime groups," said Jeremy Douglas, who runs the United Nation's program to monitor the spread of synthetic drugs. He says in some countries, shabu is more widespread than heroin and cocaine.

But the price of shabu in the Philippines is rising and it is harder to find.

One addict says some shabu sold here is mixed with other substances, such as toilet deodorizer.

"In the past, you get quality shabu. You only need a small amount because they didn't mix it with other substances. Now you can buy pure shabu but it's expensive," he said.

Halting the trade in shabu and other drugs has become a top priority for the Philippines.

"Who will not consider it a national security threat? These young people, they will be source of future leaders of this country," said Dionisio Santiago, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). "Definitely this is a war. This is not different from insurgency."

In this impoverished nation, it is not a surprise to see addicts resorting to robbery to buy shabu.

"We didn't have any money to buy shabu," said one addict. "So we broke into a house, stole valuables, including a car. Two weeks later, we were arrested."

He says he got out of jail by paying-off the police.

It is this corruption and the alleged involvement of some politicians in the drug trade that Santiago says is the agency's biggest challenge. The Philippines, he says, is in danger of becoming a narco-state.

"Based on the information that we are getting, we are very much near to it," he said. "Maybe someone even said we are already into it.

If this happens, the fear is that drug dealers and the police may soon be fighting a war openly in the streets of Filipino cities.