AT LEAST 17 high school students in Northern Mindanao were screened positive for illegal drugs during the Random Drug Testing (RDT) conducted last year on private and public high schools, the highest among the number of positive cases aside from the National Capital Region (NCR).

Dr. Ella Cecilia Naliponguit, Department of Education (DepEd) Northern Mindanao medical officer V, said out of the 17 screened positive specimens, 11 tested positive for marijuana.

The RDT, which was conducted from July to December 2009, covered 91 secondary schools nationwide, 10 of which were in private and public high schools in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.

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"In NCR, there are 27 positive cases but the RDT covers all schools. Considering that we tested only a few number of schools, mas taas gyud ta," Dr. Nalinponguit said.

Alarmed by the results, she said they are now starting to revive their comprehensive campaign on drug abuse prevention.

Naliponguit said the region used to have a massive drug education four to five years ago.

However, she said the campaign "died a natural death" after the education department's focus was diverted on promoting other aspects such as technical, Math, Science, among others.

"We are moved by this development and we are doing something about it. We have already called the attention of the schools. Our focus now would be more on drug education," Naliponguit said.

Among the activities that DepEd would undertake in relation to this are the conduct of conferences to come up with intervention on confirmed positive cases, orientation on school principals and monitoring of positive cases through peer talk, home visits and counseling.

The department will also reactivate the integration concepts of drug education program into the regular curriculum via the science, social studies and Mapeh (Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health) subjects to drumbeat awareness and advocate drug use prevention, aside from the regular celebration of Drug Abuse Prevention Week in all schools.

It would also try to involve other government agencies to synergize and coordinate activities related to drug abuse prevention.

Started in February 2009, the RDT was conducted by the DepEd and Department of Health (DOH) in coordination with the Dangerous Drugs Board in compliance with a presidential directive.

The RDT is a procedure that would determine the presence or absence of a drug substance in the body and the students are selected through an unbiased process of generating random numbers using a computer or a scientific calculator.

It was conducted in two phases. The first phase was held from January to March 2009 and covered only the NCR, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

The RDT result showed that out of the 8,106 students tested in 811 schools, 21 were screened positive.

Out of the number, two tested negative and 19 tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) after confirmation.

The Northern Mindanao and all the other regions were included in phase two of the RDT, which was conducted from July to December 11, 2009.

Partial results of the RDT phase two as of December 4, 2009 showed that out of the 1,900 schools visited, 31 were screened positive and 12 were confirmed positive.

Aside from Northern Mindanao with the highest number of screened positive cases (17), Central Luzon had nine screened positive cases which all tested positive for marijuana followed by Eastern Visayas with six screened positiven cases and three cases each for CAR and Calabarzon.