The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines, the Asian Center for Drug Policy, the University of the Philippines Manila, and other partners to convene the Philippines’ first National Substance Use Science Policy and Information Forum on Tuesday, June 15.
Over 1,800 participants participated in the first-of-its-kind virtual forum with the theme “Substance Use in the Philippines: Governance, Research, and Practice,” which provided a venue for researchers, health practitioners, and drug policy leaders to:
- present existing evidence in the Philippines on health-centered effective strategies and interventions on the prevention, treatment, and care for people affected by drug use and drug use disorders;
- facilitate the discourse and agreement of the scientific community from different disciplines on a five-year research agenda;
- and present the scientific community’s evidence-based policy recommendations to national and local policy makers. Several national and international leaders provided remarks to open the forum, including U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law, Philippine Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and UN Resident Coordinator for the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez.
Participants represented faculty and students of educational institutions, public health advocates, health researchers, national government agencies, non-governmental organizations, professional organizations, anti-drug abuse councils, the recovering community, and national and local policymakers.
Presenters identified major challenges, including the emergence of new substances and the expansion of drug trade networks; a lack of studies and inadequate understanding of the root causes and drivers of substance use; and limited access to preventative and treatment services and facilities.
Conference leaders also noted a need for increased stakeholder engagement and multisectoral collaboration, holistic and person-centered approaches, and evidence-based research that considers the root causes of substance use, in efforts to strengthen policy and governance mechanisms on prevention, treatment, recovery and reintegration of persons who use drugs.
Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes highlighted DDB’s aim to support and sustain this type of multi-sectoral collaboration.
Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri meanwhile underscored the need to institutionalize local government and community level support to address the challenges presented by illegal drugs.
Learn more about the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and its Drug Demand Reduction programs globally at www.state.gov/j/inl. For more information on USAID’s projects in the Philippines, visit: www.usaid.gov/Philippines