BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Aside from its pristine beauty, Batanes, the northernmost province in the Philippines, has become the Cagayan Valley region’s first province to be declared drug-free.
Batanes was issued a certification stating that the province is drug-free after complying with the parameters set by the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said.
Batanes Gov. Marilou Cayco and Senior Superintendent Agustin Tamangen, provincial police director, received the official certification on June 2.
“After a thorough and rigid scrutiny of the requirements, and verification and validation processes done by the Oversight Committee on Barangay Drug Clearing Operations headed by its chairperson, Regional Director Laurefel Gabales of PDEA Regional Office II, the province of Batanes was declared drug-free,” PDEA spokesperson Derick Carreon said, quoting PDEA chief Isidro Lapeña.
Batanes has six towns: Basco, Sabtang, Uyugan, Ivana, Itbayat and Mahatao and 29 barangays.
All were declared drug-free by their town police chiefs and were attested by the town mayors, who chair the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (MADACs), at the end of 2016, added Carreon.
On June 2, Batanes was formally declared drug-free upon the verification and approval of members of the Oversight Committee, which includes representatives from the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Certificates of recognition were likewise awarded to all MADACs, Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, inter-faith based organizations, academe, media, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Health and other stakeholders for their support to the barangay drug-clearing operations program, added Carreon.
At least 23 drug pushers surrendered in Batanes since the PNP introduced Oplan Double Barrel and Oplan “Tokhang” in July 2016. “Double Barrel” is the modified “Tokhang”, which the PNP adopted after a brief pause in the war on drugs because of the kidnapping and murder of a Korean businessman by anti-narcotics police.
Users and pushers who surrendered under “Tokhang” completed the community-based rehabilitation program on March 15, 2017.
“We will make Batanes as a template for all provinces to emulate. Now that the province is free from illegal drug activities, the work does not end here. We need to continuously conduct drug-demand reduction activities in the province, leaving no room for illegal drugs to prevail again,” Lapeña said.
Abra province was declared “drug free” in January.