THE province of Batanes has earned the distinction of being the country’s first province to be declared cleared from illegal drugs.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Isidro S. Lapeña on Wednesday said that Batanes, the northernmost province in the Cagayan Valley Region, was issued a certification stating that the province is drug-free. He said the award was bestowed after the province successfully complied with the parameters set forth by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) as provided in Section 8, DDB Board Regulation No. 3 Series of 2017, otherwise known as “Strengthening the Implementation of the Barangay Drug Clearing Program”.
The certification were received by provincial officials led by Gov. Marilou Cayco and Police Senior Superintendent Agustin Tamangen during simple ceremonies at the HRTC Hall of the Provincial Capitol, Basco, Batanes last Friday.
“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,” Lapeña said.
Batanes has six municipalities, namely: Basco, Sabtang, Uyugan, Ivana, Itbayat and Mahatao and 29 barangays. All were declared drug-cleared by the Chiefs of Police and were attested by the respective Municipal Mayors/Chairman, Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (MADACs) last December 29, 2016.
It was only on June 2, 2017 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 (PNP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Certificates of Recognition were likewise awarded to all MADACs, Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADACs), inter-faith based organizations, academe, media, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Health (DOH) and other stakeholders for their support to the barangay drug-clearing operations program.
Batanes has amassed 23 drug surrenderers from the time Double Barrel and Project “Tokhang” of the PNP were introduced in July 2016. The self-proclaimed users and pushers 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,” the PDEA chief added.