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CAR cops seek solution to MJ production

October 7, 2021 Alfred P. Dalizon 199 views

AMID their ongoing ‘search-and-destroy’ operations against identified secret marijuana plantation sites in the region, Cordillera policemen are also busy seeking the help of other government agencies in addressing problems being faced by villagers living in areas where the cannabis crops are being abundantly grown over the past decades, the Journal Group was told yesterday.

In a report to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, Cordillera Police Regional Office director, Brigadier Gen. Ronald O. Lee said that by immersing with the local residents, their police-community relation teams have been able to identify a number of priority projects to help alleviate the condition of the poor villagers.

They include the need for more medical services and availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the affected areas as well as the provision of more materials needed to equip the villagers of sufficient knowledge they need to prevent catching the dreaded virus.

Then there is the inaccessibility of road in far-flung areas or the so-called ‘farm-to-market roads,’ the lack of cell sites, the problem on electrification and most importantly, the need to provide the residents of alternative livelihood program.

The Journal Group had been a witness to many major marijuana eradication drives in Kalinga and Benguet provinces in the past. Since the late 80s, villagers in far-flung areas in the region have to walk tens of kilometers in order to reach public markets and sell their vegetables and other goods.

Presence of poorly-maintained dirt roads and lack of roads in the past have been taken advantage of by the New People’s Army to recruit members and supporters and also engage in highly-profitable marijuana cultivation.

Proposal to spray the marijuana fields in the region with powerful defoliants have been scrapped in the past amid fears that the chemicals would also affect legitimate crops being planted by villagers too.

Since last April, the Cordillera police force under Brig. Gen. Lee have destroyed nearly P1.6 billion worth of fully-grown marijuana plants and in the region with the local police further stepping-up their effort to locate and destroy secret cannabis sites in their cold mountain ranges on orders of Gen. Eleazar.

Members of the Cordillera police force got necessary assistance from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva and the PNP Drug Enforcement Group under Brig. Gen. Remus B. Medina during the conduct of those anti-drug operations.

The Cordillera police operations to search-and-destroy marijuana plantation sites in the provinces of Benguet, Kalinga and Mountain Province was aimed at reducing the supply of cannabis that can be harvested and distributed in Metro Manila and other provinces outside the region.

The marijuana sites were located in Sitios Bangao, Lubban , Macagang, Saleng, and Tammangan in Barangay Kayapa in Bakun, Benguet; Sitios Balbalnag, Kaniyogan, Lebeng, Tebdeb in Bgy. Badeo in Kibungan municipality; Sitios Adawey and Dalipey in Bgy. Tacadang also in Kibungan; Bgy. Butbut Proper, Mt. Chumanchil, Mt. Bitullayungan, Balay and Tulgao West in Bgy. Loccong in Tinglayan, Kalinga; and Bgy. Saclit in Sadanga, Mountain Province.

The above-named places are known to have been traditional marijuana sites in the region since the 70s and remain to be the same more than 50 years later.

Brig. Gen. Lee, a product of Philippine Military Academy ‘Tanglaw Diwa’ Class of 1992 said their PCR teams have been lecturing villagers in the known marijuana cultivation sites on acts punishable under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, one of which is the cultivation of marijuana.

“They (PCR Teams) are going all-out to make the local villagers understand the penalties and fines they will face once caught engaging in marijuana production. At the same time, they are also lecturing the villagers on the ill-effects of illegal drugs to their mental, physical and psychological well-being,” the official said.

Himself visiting his troops in Kalinga province after the end of the marijuana eradication drive last week, Brig. Gen. Lee said that social investigations are also ongoing to identify individuals tagged as responsible in the propagation of cannabis in the municipalities of Bakun, Kibungan, Tinglayan and Sadanga.

Brig. Gen. Lee said that from April to last September 28 , their operations have resulted in the uprooting of nearly 5.3 million pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants valued at P1.06billion and over 108,000 pieces of seedlings worth P4.4 million and the confiscation of around 4.4 tons of dried cannabis leaves, marijuana oil , seeds and hashish worth nearly P528 million.

The member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) ‘Tanglaw Diwa’ Class of 1992 said that their conduct of Oplan: Herodotus, a week-long simultaneous marijuana eradication drive in the region which started last September 23 led in the destruction of nearly P679 million worth of marijuana crops and its by-products.

Grown abundantly in the cold Cordillera mountain ranges and other parts of Luzon and Mindanao, marijuana, next to shabu is the 2nd most abused drug in the country where it fetches a price of around P5,000 a kilo in the local underground market.

The PNP has launched a massive effort against marijuana to prevent syndicates from flooding the country’s urban areas with the prohibited crops and turn it into an ‘alternative’ for shabu amid the major setbacks suffered recently by Chinese-run syndicates at the hands of the government.

Those operations led in the seizure of more than P6.7 billion worth of shabu and the neutralization of a major drug trafficking ring being run by a group of rogue Chinese nationals. Four armed Chinese drug smugglers were killed while seven others, three of them also Chinese nationals were arrested in the series of major anti-narcotics operations in the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and Cavite.

. Marijuana, next to shabu, remains the 2nd most abused drug in The Philippines. Grown abundantly in the cold mountain ranges of Cordillera region, a kilo of marijuana normally fetches a price of P5,000 a kilo in the underground market.

Under RA 916, the cultivation and use of cannabis in the country is illegal. RA 9165 states that the importation, sale, maintenance of a den, dive or resort, manufacture, use, and cultivation of marijuana and marijuana-related products shall be met with life imprisonment and a fine.

From July 1, 2016 to last July 31, the PDEA headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva said that nearly 6.6 tons of dried marijuana leaves have been seized and destroyed by government agents.

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