"This holiday season, thousands of tourist are expected to flock into the region. Drug peddlers might take advantage of it, posing as tourists, bringing in illegal drugs,” PDEA-Cordillera Director Edgar Apalla said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Apalla first gave the statement during the 4th Quarter joint Regional Development Council - Regional Peace and Order Council (RDC-RPOC) meeting at The Mansion on December 19.
He reported that shabu entering the Cordillera comes from the National Capital Region, and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), passing through the region’s major entry points using Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) and private vehicles.
Shabu remains to be the drug of choice of users, he said, citing that data sourced from arrested personalities as of Dec. 11, 2018, show that majority of arrested drug personalities have shabu cases.
The PDEA officer also reported that marijuana, which for years has been reported to be grown in different parts of the Cordillera, now comes from Kalinga.
"On marijuana trafficking, it is believed to be from some areas in the hinterlands of Tinglayan, Kalinga and in hidden areas in the municipality of Kibungan, Benguet," the place frequented by tourists to see a national treasure, the living “mambabatok” (tattoo artist), he said.
"Marijuana plantations are believed to be located in the hinterlands in the municipality of Tinglayan, Kalinga based on the previous MJ (marijuana) eradication operations conducted," he added.
Apalla noted that marijuana extracts are allegedly being processed in Tinglayan, Kalinga, where marijuana plants are reaped, dried, compacted into bricks and transported outside of the region, aside from hashish and hash oil.
There has been a resurgence of marijuana cultivation in the municipality of Kibungan, he said, adding that marijuana is brought out of the region for some parts of Luzon using PUVs, private and rented vehicles passing through major routes.
“Shabu and marijuana are the most abused drugs in the Cordillera region,” he said.
Apalla added that the Cordillera and Ilocos police are closely monitoring the possible re-emergence of shabu and marijuana in the boundaries of the provinces of La Union, Benguet and Ilocos Sur as part of pre-emptive measures.
He reiterated during the joint RDC-RPOC meeting that they would continue to address the problem on the entry and exit of illegal drugs and processing of marijuana, as part of government efforts to reduce demand.
Meanwhile, Apalla reported that out of the 1,176 barangays in the region, 75 are drug-affected.
Of 159 monitored drug personalities, he said that 61 are on the target list, and 98 are on the watch list.
From October 1 to December 6 this year, PDEA and other law enforcement units and agencies, including the military, conducted 269 operations in their respective areas of responsibility.
“The anti-drug operations resulted in the seizure of dangerous drugs with a total street value of PHP11.6 million." Apalla said. (PNA) By Pamela Mariz Geminiano