Tribe turns over P4.5 million worth of marijuana

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 October) — Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan has announced that tribal leaders in the hinterland boundary of  Bukidnon’s Cabanglasan and Agusan del Sur’s Loreto towns turned over some P4.5 million worth of marketable marijuana plants tp authorities.

Calingasan told reporters Thursday that Apu Manggarin, supreme datu of the Umajamnen (also referred to as Umayamnon), led 29 other tribal leaders in turning over the initial harvest of illegal drugs, which according to estimates by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) could reach up to P15 to P20 million in street sales.

The full-grown plants were turned for burning to Cabanglasan mayor Rogelio Castillanes,  other town officials and the PDEA Bukidnon team, at the municipal gym on October 27.

Calingasan quoted tribal leaders as saying the plants turned over are only a “show-proof” for their intention to destroy their reported marijuana plantation.

A PDEA official who requested not to be named for security reasons, said the tribe allegedly owns  a 40-to 50-hectare plantation. He said they have organized the Oplan Salirongan to destroy the plantations in Sitio Salirongan, Cananga-an, Cabanglasan.

But MindaNews sources who are in contact with the Lumads (indigenous peoples) in Cananga-an said the group is from across the Pantaron range, in Agusan del Sur. The sources said the plantations are in Agusan del Sur.

Calingasan said the tribal leaders blamed a ‘dumagat’ or a migrant for their involvement in planting marijuana. He said in their poverty and ignorance, they were dragged into the drug trade.

The governor said the financiers conned the tribe.

The PDEA official did not identify the financier of the plantations but said the financier bought the plants from the Lumads at P200 to P400 per sack.

Each sack contains about 15 kilos of marijuana plants, he added. Each kilo of ready to use marijuana sells at P4,000 in the market.

The PDEA official said the turnover and the eventual destruction of the plantations in about 40 to 50 hectares is a major blow to the multi-million marijuana drug trade in Mindanao.

Cananga-an, where the authorities uncovered about two hectares of marijuana plantations in 2010, made Cabanglasan one of the three “marijuana” hotspots in Mindanao, the PDEAofficial said.

The other two, Talakag and San Fernando towns, are also in Bukidnon.

Calingasan said the provincial government will reward the tribe with projects. He said starting January 2012, the provincial government will send teachers for the pre-school and elementary pupils in the villages. The PDEA official also vowed livelihood support from the Dangerous Drugs Board.

Jeoffrey Sayson, provincial legal officer, said the incident shows people in “very lucrative” business are now willing to live a less lucrative but honorable life. .

Caliingasan quoted tribal leaders including a youth representative as saying money is less important as they intend to secure their future.

He added that they prefer roads, bridges, and schools. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)