December 8, 2023

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Cordillera has seized P143 million worth marijuana during its various operations in the first five months of 2023.

PDEA-Cordillera Information Officer Rosel Sarmiento said the agency, together with the police, was able to conduct eradication of 14 marijuana planting sites in different areas of the region from January to May. 

Sarmiento said most of these eradication operations were conducted in Benguet and Kalinga. She said in Benguet, the areas particularly Kibungan, are more scattered due to the terrain while in Tinglayan, Kalinga, the planting sites are bigger. 

In May 17 to 19, eradication was conducted in barangays Butbut Proper, Tulgao West, and Loccong in Tinglayan where P31.3 million worth of marijuana plants were destroyed during the simultaneous eradication campaign of the agency and the Philippine National Police.

The joint personnel destroyed through burning, the 156,700 fully grown marijuana plants in nine planting sites with a land area of 14,550 square meters. However, no cultivator was arrested.

Sarmiento said most of the planting sites are the same areas where clearing operations were conducted probably due to the tough terrain and elevation of the mountains.

“The trails to these planting sites are really tough and cannot be easily accessed by anyone,” she said, adding even the operatives need to trek for hours before getting to the sites.

She said PDEA-Cordillera is constantly monitoring these areas and is also cooperating with the local government units to provide alternative livelihood to the community, especially in the identified planting sites. 

A technical working group with the LGUs and concerned agencies was also created in 2021 to continue the monitoring of these affected areas, however, Sarmiento acknowledged the need to revive talks with the group to map out plans for the affected communities.

Sarmiento said the region remains the biggest cultivator of marijuana in the country.

In 2016, PDEA-Cordillera made history for having the biggest haul of marijuana worth P4.5 billion, which includes 70 eradications in 263 planting sites in the region.

It was also the same year that then President Rodrigo Duterte launched his anti-drug war campaign in the country, which spurred the multiple marijuana eradication efforts of PDEA. – Ofelia C. Empian