On June 15, 2021, the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL), together with the Asian Center for Drug Policy (ACDP) and the University of the Philippines Manila, will be hosting the very first National Substance Use Science Policy and Information Forum with the theme “Substance Use in the Philippines: Governance, Research, and Practice.”

The national forum aims to present existing evidence on health-centered effective strategies and interventions while employing human rights-based approaches and facilitate the inputs of various scientific disciplines in creating a five-year research agenda. Evidence-based policy recommendations for national and local policymakers will also be presented during the forum.

After the launch of the country’s “war on drugs” in 2016, there have been calls for reform to address critical institutional gaps and harmonize policies. Various groups and stakeholders have also begun acting independently and implemented their own programs and/or conducted research. Likewise, new modalities of community-based rehabilitation programs were also implemented throughout the country. As a result of these multiple streams of independent activities, the ecosystem responding to the substance use problem has become fragmented.

Substance use is a complicated issue that can be viewed under the lens of public order and public health perspective with the latter focusing on the needs of Persons Who Use Drugs (PWUDs). Furthermore, the drug recovery journey from prevention, identification, treatment, management, and, finally, aftercare and reintegration require coordination from multiple government agencies and civil society organizations and other sectors. Policy development should also take account the development of clinical dependence among some PWUDs, the motivations for drug use, and the effects of drug use within a community.

Prior of the main conference, five pre-conference webinars were organized by the ACDP, a consortium of universities, professional organizations, and NGOs which advocate for an evidence- and science-based approach to drug treatment, rehabilitation, and drug policy. Teams of experts from various ACDP partner institutions and organizations facilitated the conduct of survey and review of literature and policy implications, identification of research gaps, and preparation of policy briefs.

Highlights and recommendations on the five topic areas – (1) key issues on substance use in the Philippines, (2) public health dimension of substance use, (3) support systems for PWUDs, (4) the bio-psychological and socio-anthropological perspectives of substance use, and (5) public health policy and interventions will be presented in the virtual conference. A harmonized research agenda and policy framework on substance use is also envisioned to be achieved at the end of the national forum.

At the helm of organizing the conference are Academician Carmencita D. Padilla, NAST focal person on substance use and Chancellor of UP Manila; Dr. Armando Crisostomo, UP Manila Vice-Chancellor for Research; and Dr. Elmer Soriano, Civika Asian Development Academy Managing Director. Dr. Crisostomo, also the conference chair, and Dr. Soriano are the co-convenors of the ACDP. Meanwhile, Mr. Olivier Lermet of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will give the forum’s keynote address.

Expected to attend the conference are more than 2000 participants representing the academe (faculty and students), public health advocates, health researchers, national government agencies, non-government organizations, professional organizations, and, significantly, national and local policymakers who may be guided and advised on crafting legislation and policy that is science- and evidence- based.

The national forum on substance use is also held in observance of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (IDADAIT) on June 26, which aims to raise awareness and strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. With the theme “Share Facts on Drugs. Save Lives.,” IDADAIT 2021 stresses the importance of awareness and factual information on drugs and their dangers, and the value of evidence-based prevention, treatment, and care.

Interested participants may register at and view the conference program through this link. Additional information on forum will also be uploaded in the conference website. (Ryan Pascual – NAST PHL with inputs from ACDP and UNODC Philippines)

LINK: Conference Program

LINK: Conference website