By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

(File photo)

MANILA – Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have seized at least PHP592 million worth of illegal drugs in the first month of this year under the intensified anti-narcotics drive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s administration.

In its operational assessment report submitted to Malacanang and released on Monday, the agency also reported the arrest of 4,499 drug personalities and the filing of 7,720 drug cases.

Among narcotics seized during PDEA operations were shabu worth PHP403.4 million; cocaine powder, PHP15.9 million; ecstasy tablets, PHP19.9 million; kush, PHP19.8 million and millions worth of marijuana in forms of dried leaves, bricks, plants, and stalks.

PDEA data also showed shabu and marijuana are the two most frequently abused drugs in the country, with 4,258, or 94.6 percent of arrests were shabu-related, while 240 or 5.3 percent were marijuana-related.

Authorities have intensified their surveillance and monitoring of the country’s airports, seaports, as well as mail and parcel services to prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals into the country.

The PDEA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime signed a Declaration of Cooperation in Makati City last January, which entailed the turnover to the agency of 34 tablets containing anti-drug operations modules and references.

The US government, on the other hand, donated last January two Toyota Hilux fleet vans to PDEA at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA-IADITG) Operations Center in Pasay City.

PDEA said part of its intensified anti-drug campaign is strengthening international cooperation involving multiple countries and entities such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and the UN.

The agency also added that under its Barangay Drug Clearing Program, 26,952 barangays, or 64.1 percent were declared drug-free out of 42,046 barangays nationwide.

Some 8,585 barangays or 20.4 percent remain drug-affected, with Metro Manila recording the highest number of drug-affectation with 53.9 percent.

Mimaropa has the lowest affectation with 2.8 percent.

As to the overall number of drug-free barangays, a total of 6,109 barangays were declared free as of January this year, the majority of which were from Eastern Visayas with 1,380 barangays.

Earlier, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said the PDEA, in an effort to reduce demand for illegal drugs, conducted around 257,588 Preventive Education and Community Involvement (PECI) activities and established 111 Balay Silangan Reformation Centers, producing around 2,000 graduates and employing 894 individuals.

She said more than 300,000 Persons Who Use Drugs (PWUDs) in drug-cleared villages also underwent community-based drug rehabilitation programs, while 67,045 PWUDs were given intervention programs.

“Looking forward, PDEA is strengthening the implementation of its anti-illegal drugs strategies, particularly focusing on suppressing supply by intensifying the conduct of intelligence-driven and high-impact operations, arrest of top-level drug personalities, enhancing inter-agency collaboration and strengthening efforts in drug entry points to deter smuggling,” Garafil said.

“PDEA is also working for drug demand reduction by conducting National Anti-Drug Advocacy Campaign, forging close coordination with Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, supporting community-based drug rehabilitation programs, and intensifying information dissemination to promote-stigma-free campaign and to assist PWUDs,” she added. (PNA)