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Lets talk about Drugs in the Philippines – We have all heard the story, ‘a guy gave me some weed then he told me he was a cop and that I was under-arrest’ – or ‘ I took a couple of pulls at a club and then the club got busted’ or ‘ I was in a KTV with a guy smoking pot and we ALL got busted, or,…well you get the idea.


Busted for drugs in the Philippines – All of the reasons you need to steer clear of the gear in the Philippines

Lets talk about Drugs in the Philippines – We have all heard the story, ‘a guy gave me some weed then he told me he was a cop and that I was under-arrest’ – or ‘ I took a couple of pulls at a club and then the club got busted’ or ‘ I was in a KTV with a guy smoking pot and we ALL got busted, or,…well you get the idea.

We are covering the drug laws in the Philippines – a country considered be in the top 20 for the most severe penalties in the world for drug use and drug trafficking.
If you are going to be backpacking in the Philippines then you should be aware of the severe, almost draconian laws on carrying even the smallest amount of the most ‘accepted’ recreational drugs, and certainly be educated and well read on the subject before you leave.

The following article sheds some perspective on exactly what you are risking, and unless you want to be featured on one of those low budget American TV documentaries in twelve years time you may be advised to give drugs a miss during your time in the Philippines, no we mean like really….read on.


The Philippine Law on Drug Possession is Unforgiving

Philippine law against drugs or Republic Act No.9165 is very strict, just like other Asian countries.  Below is a brief run down on the minimum amount of drug possession in the Philippines and its penalties.

Under Section 11 of the Republic Act No.9165,  a prison term of 12 to 20 years including a fine ranging from P300,000.00 to P400,000.00 for less than five grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu”, “ecstasy”, “Dr. Death,” GHB or “club drug,” psychedelic drugs such as TMA, LSD, and other similarly designed without having any therapeutic value or less than 300 grams of marijuana.

Let us say that again – A prison term of 12 to 20 years for less than 5 grams of a class A or class B drug and less than 300 grams of a class C drug. Meaning if you were 21 when arrested for a ‘joint’ you would be leaving the ‘joint’ when you were 33 years old.


Even If You Are Tested Positive for Drugs in the Philippines

A person who is found to be positive for the use of any restricted drug, after a confirmatory test, shall be imposed a penalty of a minimum of six months rehabilitation in a government center for the first offense. Rehabilitation centers in the Philippines are not what you may think of in the UK or USA, generally its hard labor and community work in prison.  Rehabilitation is just a nice word for it.


If you get caught with drugs in the Philippines

Under no circumstances sign anything admitting your crime, get a lawyer and let the lawyer advise you.  Speak to your embassy, in very few cases will they be able to intervene or even help you.  If you can pay your way out of it then do so, if you have a local friend then ask them to help you try and make the problem go away.

Of course – the best way not to get into this situation is to stay away from drugs all-together whilst in the Philippines. If you really can not go on holiday without smoking a joint then you may want to consider another location.


For larger cases the maximum penalty is death

Drug traffickers are sentenced to death, at the last count there were at least 66 nationals on death row. You may be presumed to be a drug trafficker if you have more than a third of an ounce of a drug in your possession, either way getting caught is going to seriously ruin your parents lives and seriously going to make a lot less enjoyable, unless you like the idea of languishing in prison, the foods not great, the rooms are crowded, the other guests are not pleasant and there are better places to stay for sure.

Although the carrying out of a death sentence as a foreigner is unlikely; the chance of you dying in a Filipino prison if you get caught trafficking drugs is.  I you get sentenced for life you may have wished for the death penalty rather than the 40 year sentence you picked up on your Gap Year, because in the Philippines LIFE normally means LIFE.

Never offer to carry anyone’s luggage for them to another country, dont agree to take a friends bag back to the home country for them, in short keep your wits about you, be smart and be safe.


Some examples of foreigners that went down big time

According to a report , the Bureau of Immigration revealed that in 2013, the number of foreign criminals arrested in the Philippines had reached 659. Of this number, our list is topped by Koreans with 34 arrested, whose cases range from forgery, drugs-related cases including heinous crimes such as murder.

Koreans were followed by 23 Chinese, 19 Americans, three Japanese and two Germans. Other foreign nationals arrested were Taiwanese, Israeli, Estonian, Belgian, and British.
Here is a list of recent foreigner in drug-related arrests in the Philippines, it does not make for pretty reading.


Some examples of foreigners that went down big time - Drugs in the Philippines – Backpacker Advice
© Courtesy of


1. 163 Kilos of Crystal Meth

In 2003, Chinese drug suspects Li Lan Yan and Li Tan Hua were both arrested during a search and seizure operation at their rented house at Marina Bay Homes, Paranaque. They were convicted in July 28, 2003 by a Paranaque Court for the manufacture of more than 163 kilos of shabu (crystal meth).


2. Two Chinese Suspects Arrested in a meth lab

In 2004 Davao City Judge Romeo Albaraccin convicted two other Chinese drugs suspects identified as Carlos Sy and Shi Jin Sheng for maintaining and operating a shabu laboratory.


3. Nine foreigners busted for meth in Cebu

In September 2004, 275 kilos of shabu were confiscated during a raid inside an establishment being used as a shabu laboratory in Mandaue City in Cebu. It was the third recorded biggest drug haul. Here, the PNP arrested nine suspects, all believed to be members of an international drug ring operating in Southeast Asia. These were composed of four Chinese nationals; two Taiwanese, two Malaysians, and one British.


4. Just 712 Kilos of Meth on this Chinese National

Another other recorded huge PNP drug haul was in March 2006 in Marawoy, LIpa City in Batangas. A Chinese national was arrested with 712 kilos of shabu (meth) seized including chemical precursors and equipment for the production of shabu.


5. Four Canadians Allegedly representing a Mexican Cartel

In 2014, Philippine anti-narcotics agents arrested four Canadians for allegedly trafficking illegal drugs from Mexico. According to Rommell Vallejo, chief of the Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation, the suspects have alleged links to a Mexican cartel and were trying to undercut Chinese traffickers in the local market which could have led to a violent drug war in the Philippines.

This was the first time a syndicate made up of Canadian nationals were arrested. The group, according to Vallejo, was selling crystal meth (shabu) at half the price offered by the Chinese. The suspects were arrested in separate raids on three posh condominiums in Manila. The suspects were caught with drugs worth more than $2.25 million.

According to police, ,agents seized from one of the condominiums, at least three suitcases filled with cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, a drug similar to ecstasy. If convicted, the Canadians face life imprisonment without bail.


5. Four Canadians Allegedly representing a Mexican Cartel - Drugs in the Philippines – Backpacker Advice
© Courtesy of


6. 15 nationals from Singapore and Hongkong Smoking Pot in a KTV

In 2015,, about 15 foreign nationals from Singapore and Hong Kong were arrested in a raid on a KTV bar in Pasay City. When operatives swooped down on them, the group were smoking pot in a VIP room inside the KTV bar. Also in their possession were other party drugs and a small amount of cocaine.


7. Venezuelan drug mule with 92 pellets of Charlie in her belly

Also in 2015, a Venezuelan drug mule was caught with more than a kilo of cocaine at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

According to authorities, Andres Rodriguez, 39, had ingested 92 pellets of 13 grams each that contained cocaine valued at around $139,000.The authorities said they received information about an incoming Venezuelan passenger. They then alerted Customs and Immigration officials on the arrival of of the suspect.

They did not find any illegal drugs in Rodriguez’s bag but found several drug paraphernalia. They then decided to bring the suspect to the Philippine General Hospital for examination and after seeing the pellets through an x-ray, was given a laxative to flush out the pellets.


8. A Chinese national and a Filipino marine officer $6.7M of ice

In 2016, a Chinese national and a Filipino marine officer were arrested in a raid in a hideout in Sta. Cruz, Manila where illegal drugs worth more that $6.7 million worth or 64 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (or ice). The house served as storage for the illegal drugs including assorted chemicals and laboratory equipment believed used in the manufacture of the drugs.
According to Police, the two men previously worked with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.


8. A Chinese national and a Filipino marine officer $6.7M of ice - Drugs in the Philippines – Backpacker Advice
© Courtesy of


9. Korean-American Busted for Meth

Also in 2016, a South Korean was arrested for possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) while inside a hotel in General Santos City. According to the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for Region 12, Lyndon Aspacio, the suspect, Hyun Seong Hong had about $1,600 worth of shabu in his possession. The PDEA team also recovered drug ‘sniffing’ paraphernalia from the suspect.

Aspacio said the suspect is a citizen of the United States of America and is married to a Filipina.


10. Nigerian and an Ugandan ‘students’ with 200 grams of meth

The latest bust for drugs in the Philippines was the arrest of a Nigerian ‘student’ and his Ugandan companion in a drug buy-bust operation in Barangay Sampaloc II, Cavite City.
Paschal Sunny Ezeanaka, 26, a student of the Philippine Christian University (PCU) in Cavite and Ugandan Jonathan Businge, 36, were nabbed shortly after a transaction with a poseur-buyer. Seized from the suspects were a plastic pack containing about 200 grams of shabu.
Both suspects are now detained at the police station jail.

The arrest of the two suspects came only a day after Okoye Thidera, 32, also a Nigerian, was arrested in another buy-bust operation in Barangay Burol Main in Dasmariñas. The suspect was in possession of about 300 grams of “meth.”


10. Nigerian and an Ugandan 'students' with 200 grams of meth - Drugs in the Philippines – Backpacker Advice
© Courtesy of


The War On Drugs in the Philippines

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has admitted that the illegal drug trade in the Philippines has grown bigger. However, the agency has made “significant” strides with the arrest of 1,821 drug personalities that included almost 200 government officials.
In his testimony before a Senate inquiry into the drug trade, PDEA director-general Arturo Cacdac Jr. testified that the number of arrested drug personalities increased by 30 percent from 1,402 individuals in 2014 to 1,821 in 2015.

He said the nabbed suspects included 248 drug den owners, 103 of whom were government employees; 102 were leaders of members of known drug groups, 63 were elected officials, 47 were wanted suspects, 31 were law enforcers, 10 were members of an armed group, and 37 were foreign nationals.



Helpful articles and blog posts on the drug scene in the Philippines

We only recommend writers and blogs that we read regularly and believe will deliver substantial value to our readers. The following is our top picks of articles on Drugs in the Philippines that we think are worth reading:

Do you have an awesome link to a relevant well written article that should be included here? If so, hit us up on Twitter by following and messaging us the link. Looking for the best budget stays in the Philippines? Check out our guide to the Philippines for further information.


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About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.