VIRAC, Catanduanes, Nov. 30 (PNA) -- A high ranking official of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) anti-illegal drugs group making an inventory of the "shabu" (methamphetamine hydrochloride) laboratory found in Virac, Catanduanes said it could probably be the biggest such facility discovered since the start of the government's anti-illegal drug campaign in the country in July.
Senior Supt. Bert Ferro, director of PNP’s Anti Illegal Drugs Group, said the facility operating inside a warehouse in Barangay Palta Small, Virac is a “mega-sized” shabu laboratory because it can produce up to 9.6 tons of shabu a month.
Ferro’s team is now on its fourth day of inventory of the equipment and chemicals found inside the warehouse since the raid on Saturday by a combined team of anti-narcotics lawmen.
“This is bigger than the clandestine shabu laboratory we have found and raided in Cauayan town in Isabela months ago wherein only two hydrogenators were recovered by PNP operatives," he said.
Ferro said the shabu lab in Virac is more upscale than any other laboratory because of the type of apparatus and equipment found that uses two systems in manufacturing shabu.
He said the Virac facility simultaneously uses the “Rigai” and hydrogenator systems in manufacturing the illegal drugs.
“The Rigai system uses heat while hydrogenator uses water in manufacturing shabu,” said Ferro.
He said they found six hydrogenators in Virac, each of which can produce around 1.2 tons per cycle or weekly so that the six machines can produce an estimated 9.6 tons of shabu per month.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Bicol Director Ronald Ricardo, also said the Virac facility is the “biggest” they have found since July.
He said PDEA suspects the laboratory has already produced a big amount of shabu before it was discovered.
Ricardo admitted that even before the search warrant was served on the facility, they had been receiving some intelligence reports regarding Jayson Gonzales Uy, lessee of the 400-square property where the warehouse is located, but they have not found any evidence to link him in the illegal drug trade in Catanduanes until last November 26.
Chief Inspector Josephine Clemens, crime forensic chemist of the Scene of the Crime Operatives in Catanduanes, said they found six big plastic drums with around 360 kilograms of precursor or ephedrine which is the primary ingredient in manufacturing shabu.
She said the equipment and chemicals found in Virac's shabu laboratory are all major requirements in producing illegal drugs.
Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) Director Melvin Ramon Buenafe said they expect another week to be able to finish their inventory of the big volume of chemicals and large number of equipment found in the facility.
He said after the inventory, they will start an exhaustive investigation on those involved in the operation of the shabu laboratory.
Buenafe added that Laurence Perenia, caretaker of the shabu lab, has been charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
He said PRO5 operatives have been sent to track down the whereabouts of Uy and a certain Pascual Uy, the suspected operators of the shabu lab, after they eluded arrest during Saturday’s raid.
Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes, in an interview, admitted that the discovery of the shabu lab in his town was a shock to him and the town’s residents.
He said they are saddened about the discovery of the drug laboratory in their town.
"This is a very big issue against us but I remain steadfast in my campaign and duty to cleanse our town against illegal drugs, petty crimes and other social problems,” said Laynes.
He urged the people to remain calm and avoid speculations but maintained a strong support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign “to make the nation safe for all people at any time and day in any street and place." (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/EDS