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PAMPANGA, Philippines – A clandestine illegal drugs laboratory that had the potential to produce 100 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) per day was discovered by local officials and policemen in a remote village at the foot of Mt. Arayat on Thursday, September 22.
Arayat town mayor Emmanuel Alejandrino said he was with a team of policemen, sanitation officers, and fire protection officers when they tried to inspect the gated and fenced property in Barangay Lacquios.
“But when the two Chinese-looking men inside saw us, they quickly ran and jumped over the high concrete fence at the back of the compound,” he said.
Policemen tried to pursue them but since they had to go around the fenced compound, they lost the suspects in the bushes.
The mayor and his team had to use ladders to gain entry into the compound.
Inside the property, they were shocked to see expensive-looking equipment and related machines for the mass production of shabu, prompting them to immediately coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Region 3 and the provincial police.
PDEA Region III information officer Glen Guillermo told Rappler the machines and equipment inventoried by the agency inside the compound include a combustion tower setup, a diesel-powered power generator, one industrial chiller, a set of power controllers, 7 units of industrial distillation setup, and a reaction mixer.
Pampanga provincial police director Senior Supt. Rodolfo Recomono Jr. told reporters that a gas chromatograph machine was also discovered inside the compound and was placed under the custody of the police crime laboratory.
“This gas chromatograph, according to the crime lab, determines the purity or quality of shabu, the finished product. It is now in the custody of the crime lab,” he said.
Quoting crime laboratory officers, Recomono said the apparatus found inside the illegal drugs laboratory can produce 100 kilos or more shabu per day.
“This shabu laboratory is bigger than the one discovered in Camiling, Tarlac a few years ago. It could be the biggest clandestine shabu lab in the Philippines. The syndicate responsible for establishing this lab might have thought that it would not be discovered since it is located at the foot of the mountain and is surrounded by piggeries and poultries,” he said.
The police official theorized that the apparatus had already undergone “dry-run” production of shabu, saying that watery shabu residues were found from the machines.
But chemists from PDEA-Region 3 said they did not find any residue for shabu production inside the apparatus they inventoried.
Mayor Alejandrino, also known as “Kumander Bon” when he was still the supreme leader of the Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan (HMB), expressed sadness and anger over the establishment of a large shabu production facility in his town.
“It’s saddening and shocking to find out that in my own town there is a laboratory that can supply the entire country with shabu. We are glad that this was discovered. May this serve as warning to those who plan to set-up similar facilities in my town. Pasensyahan na lang tayo,” he said.
They mayor said municipal records show that the compound was supposed to be used as a hog farm.
“Last year, somebody applied for a permit for piggery but that person no longer came back to the municipal hall. We decided to inspect this place for compliance with fire and sanitation rules and regulations as a way to implement the marching order of Governor (Lilia) Pineda and Vice Governor (Dennis) Pineda to check all those who applied for piggery and poultry permit. That’s why I had with me Bureau of Fire Protection and health office personnel when we came here,” he disclosed.
He said the two residential buildings and the covered court inside the compound and the high concrete fence were constructed just a year ago.
“This area was being used by farmers to plant vegetables. We got information that it is being leased by the Chinese-looking men, although we still have no idea who is leasing it to them. Probably the lease is only about P10,000 a month. Lease rates here in very cheap because of its remote location,” he said.
Alejandrino said they learned from residents of Lacquios village that different kinds of brand new-looking vehicles were seen going in and out of the compound.
“That’s why we have decided to check it out. But the two Chinese guys escaped. I believe they are Chinese because the food they left in the kitchen were Chinese food and all the equipment we saw here are all made in China,” he said.
Recomono said they plan to interview residents of the village to find out the identity of the people who established the shabu laboratory.
As of publish time, pursuit operations, including the establishment of police check-points, were being done to arrest the two men who escaped from the shabu laboratory. – Rappler.com