HIGH School students in Misamis Oriental are less susceptible to illegal drugs, a high official of the province said.

Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Norris Babiera said the accessible supply of illegal drugs in most cities make students more prone compared to students in the province of Misamis Oriental.

Babiera issued the statement on Friday in response to the result of a nationwide random drug test (RDT), which was conducted on secondary schools from Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. It listed Northern Mindanao as having the most number of high school students who tested positive for illegal drug use.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Although findings have not specified the names of the schools, Babiera believes that those who tested positive came from Cagayan de Oro.

He said urban areas like Cagayan de Oro are the usual transit points of illegal drugs in Mindanao. Even Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier named Cagayan de Oro as shipment point of locally produced marijuana and crystal methamphetamine or "shabu."

"There are a number of positive cases which might be attributed to the province but still, I believe its minimal compared to Cagayan de Oro, or any city for that matter," Babiera told Sun.Star.

Nevertheless, the Misamis Oriental official underscored the need to further strengthen anti-illegal drugs advocacy in schools.

As chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, Babiera vowed to "sustain information and education campaign against illegal drugs in all campuses in the province."

While admitting that drug addiction remains one of the top concerns of local government units (LGU), the vice governor is confident that the problem is "not as alarming" compared to the concerns of other LGUs.

He cited a report from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) purportedly showing a low drug abuse incidence in the province.

Sun.Star could not independently verify the report as of Friday, as PDEA-Northern Mindanao Regional Director Gilberto Abanto Jr. was out of town.

Conducted by the Department of Education (Deped) from January to March 2009, the RDT found positive cases of drug abuse from at least 17 high school students tested in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. The figure is the highest among the number of positive cases recorded in the whole country, aside from the National Capital Region (NCR).

Doctor Ella Cecilia Naliponguit, medical officer 5 of DepEd Northern Mindanao, said that out of the 17 screened positive specimens, 11 tested positive for marijuana and the rest for "shabu."

"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," Doctor Nalinponguit said.

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 Math and 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. (With TDCB)