BUKIDNON Representative Teofisto Guingona III expressed alarm over reports that Northern Mindanao topped the nationwide random drug testing (RDT) conducted last year.

In a statement, Guin-gona said the results are alarming as he called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to intensify its anti-drug programs in schools.

“We are alarmed that our region ranked at the top for drug use among high school students in the country,” Guingona said, who is running for senator in the May 10 elections.

Based on the RDT conducted last year, at least 17 high school students in Northern Mindanao were screened positive for illegal drug use, 11 of whom were found positive for marijuana.

According to DepEd medical officer Dr. Ella Cecilia Naliponguit, this figure puts Northern Mindanao among the highest number of positive cases outside the National Capital Region (NCR).

The RDT was conducted from July to December last year which covered 10 private and public high schools in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.

“This means there is an urgent need for DepEd to intensify its anti-drug program in schools because once these students get hooked on drugs, it would be difficult for them to finish their education,” Guingona said.

Exacerbating this, he added, is Naliponguit’s statement that the region used to have a massive drug education campaign some four to five years ago.

Naliponguit earlier said DepEd-Northern Mindanao’s anti-drug abuse campaign “died a natural death” after the department’s focus was shifted to other programs.

“The DepEd should investigate where the supposed budget for anti-drug abuse campaign went,” Guingona said, who was known as the champion of budget reform.

The first phase of the RDT, which was held from January to March 2009 and covered the NCR, Region I, Region II, Region VII and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), 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.

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), Region III had nine screened positive cases which all tested positive for marijuana followed by Region VIII with six screened positive cases and three cases each for CAR and Region IV-A.

Naliponguit said with the RDT results, they are bent on undertaking several activities and programs this year that are geared toward illegal drug prevention.

This include 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 DepEd would also reactivate the integration concepts of drug education program into the regular curriculum via the science, social studies and Mapeh subjects to drumbeat awareness and advocate drug use prevention, aside from the regular celebration of Drug Abuse Prevention Week in all schools.