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Cordillera PNP’S ‘summer offensive’ vs marijuana starts early

THE Cordillera Police Regional Office, backed up by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Armed Forces, has started its early ‘summer offensive’ against illegal marijuana cultivation in the region which remains the top producer of cannabis in the country due to its cool climate favorable to the growing of the banned weed.

Cordillera police director, Brigadier General R’win S. Pagkalinawan said he has ordered all concerned officials to further step up their ‘search-and destroy’ efforts on all identified marijuana plantation sites in the region which is home to the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province.

Cordillera’s most famous spot is Baguio City.

In a report to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Debold M. Sinas who is still on sick leave and PNP Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, the official said checkpoints have been placed in strategic parts of the province to intercept motor vehicles and people trying to transport marijuana to Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

Last week, Cordillera policemen uprooted and destroyed an estimated P14 million worth of fully-grown cannabis plants and seedlings in Tabuk City, Kalinga.

Pagkalinawan said the operation also resulted in the arrest of seven cannabis cultivators and couriers. All seven are facing charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

On orders of Sinas, the Cordillera police force has launched a massive offensive against marijuana cultivators and dealers amid findings that some drug syndicates are trying to smuggle cannabis to Metro Manila hoping to replace shabu.

At present, marijuana remains the 2nd most abused drug in the country next to shabu. It cost around P5,000 a kilo in the underground market. Since the 70s, Cordillera has been known as a main source of marijuana in the country due to its cold climate.

On Monday last week, Pagkalinawan said his men, joined by other PNP units and the Philippine Army, uprooted and burned on site some 36,000 worth of full-grown marijuana plants and seedlings valued at P7.2 million.

The plants were found growing in a communal forest in Sitio Kinmayad, Bgy. Kayapa, Bakun.

Another operation in Sitio Bagiw in Bgy. Tacadang, Kibungan also led to the destruction of nearly P700,000 worth of cannabis the following day.

On Wednesday, combined Cordillera PNP and PDEA operatives partnered to make one of the biggest marijuana seizures in the region following the arrest of four men found transporting 112 kilograms of dried cannabis worth P13.4 million.

PDEA chair, Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva identified the suspects as Wenceslao Galicia and Eduardo Patega, both residents of Makati City, Benedict Camia of Imus, Cavite and Augusto Galicia of Antipolo City.

The four were intercepted in Tabuk City, Kalinga by members of the local police and the PDEA while on board a Toyota Innova with plate no. NGF 5992. The vehicle was found to be carrying 112 compressed marijuana bricks when searched.

On Thursday, police arrested a 17-year old student from Tuguegarao City, Cagayan while transporting 450 grams of marijuana worth P54,000 in Liwan West, Rizal, Kalinga.

All suspects are facing charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Pagkalinawan said another marijuana eradication drive in Butbut Proper in Tinglayan, Kalinaga conducted by the local police and the PDEA also led to the destruction of an estimated P200,000 worth of fully-grown marijuana plants and the PNP chief said that their all-out offensive versus marijuana traffickers and cultivators in the country will be continuing as part of their effort to prevent the flow of the prohibited crop to Metro Manila and other urban centers specially during the start of the summer period.

The PNP chief cited the Cordillera police and the PNP Drug Enforcement Group headed by Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee for their successive string of accomplishments in the anti-marijuana drive.

Tens of millions worth of fully-grown marijuana plants and seedlings have been seized and burned by the Cordillera police since the start of the year. Last month, Cordillera policemen also arrested a 45-year old resident of Taytay, Rizal for transporting 99 kilos of marijuana worth nearly P12 million in Bauko, Mountain Province.

Six members of a marijuana trafficking ring operating in Northern and Central Luzon were also arrested by PNP-DEG agents during a buy-bust in Concepcion, Tarlac which led to the recovery of 158 kilos of cannabis worth nearly P19 million.

In Cagayan Valley, members of the PRO2 under Brig. Gen. Crizaldo O. Nieves and the PNP-DEG arrested two other cannabis traffickers during a sting in Tarlac which led to the confiscation of 41 kilos of marijuana leaves valued at nearly P19 million.

Lee said they have received information that the suspects were involved in the transportation and distribution of large volume of cannabis from Cordillera region to Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon.

“We have monitored most of the suspects transporting an average of 40 kilograms of marijuana every transaction,” Lee said.