Drug-affected villages up-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
REPORTS of increasing number of drug-affected barangays in Baguio City have gotten local officials worried.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan in Tuesday’s City Peace and Order Council meeting expressed concern over the latest report of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that some 20 barangays in the city are now drug-affected.
From only nine in February 2013, the number of drug-affected barangays jumped to 22 a year later. It slightly went down to 20 last March.
Some 36 drug personalities have been identified by PDEA in barangays Bakakeng Cetral, Irisan, Military Cut-off, Ambiong, Padre Zamora, Upper Magsaysay, Camp 7, Campo Filipino, Loakan Proper, St. Joseph Village, Bayan Park, Guisad, Salud Midra, Dominican-Mirador, Asin, Middle Quezon Hill, Dontogan, Holy Ghost, Pacdal and East Quirino Hill.
The presence of drug personalities has also increased in the city which remains as a transhipment area of drugs to various places in Luzon. In the city, the preferred drug is shabu followed by marijuana, PDEA reported.
According to PDEA, drug personalities proliferate in the Summer Capital since it is an educational center, a tourism area with several night establishments and economic center with several big industries like call centers.
Prices of drugs have also risen in the city due to high demand. Street prices of marijuana are pegged at P50 to 100 per gram with shabu commanding prices as high as P6,500 to P7,700 per gram.
PDEA representative Emily Fama said the agency together with the Baguio City Police Office were able to conduct at least 66 anti-drug operations, arrested at least 75 people and filed some 77 cases against violators of the anti-narcotics law.
Aside from reports of Nigerian and Iranian nationals allegedly involved in illegal drugs and drug mule hiring in the city, the mayor also raised concerns of the Korean community in Baguio after reports have reached South Korea of the drug menace in the country, including the killing of their nationals.
The mayor said while this problem has been addressed in countries such as Thailand, the Korean community claims the problem remains neglected in the Philippines.
Coming from an official trip in Taebaek City, the mayor said reports in newspapers in South Korea portray the Philippines as the killing fields for their nationals.
PDEA Regional Director Ronald Allan Ricardo said anti-narcotics agents are intensifying their drive against drug proliferation in the city with continued buy-bust operations and serving of warrants against drug pushers.
Assistant Regional Director Gil Castro, meanwhile, said the agency has also been on the lookout for members of the Korean Mafia said to have stayed at one point in Baguio City.
Although there have been no arrests and cases filed against alleged South Korean drug lords, Ricardo said there have been reports of drug and human trafficking involving Korean nationals in the city.
Castro added one top drug personality, Lee Beong Koo, who was wanted in the United States for drugs, may have cohorts in Baguio City, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija.
Mayor Domogan also tasked the BCPO, PDEA and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to intensify operations against illegal drugs as this has been linked to the high crime incidence in the city.
Committee on Peace and Order chair Councilor Roberto Ortega also raised the importance of renewed operations and monitoring in schools having heard reports from Department of Education officials of high school students involved in illegal drugs.
Domogan also tasked Association of Barangay Councils president Councilor Michael Lawana and Ortega to look into ways the city government could address problems of drugs proliferation in barangays.
He said barangay officials of the 22 drug-affected villages are the most important allies in combating illegal drugs.
Another concern is the current lack of a drug rehabilitation center in the city, which was raised by the City Social Welfare and Development Officer Betty Fangasan.
The mayor said the city has an identified drug rehabilitation site in Balenben, Irisan barangay but this has yet to pass guidelines set by the social welfare and health departments.
The City Legal Office was tasked to look at the city’s ownership of the Shalom House, which could be used again as the city’s rehabilitation center.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 17, 2014.