TAMPAKAN, South Cotabato (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – The New People’s Army (NPA) is providing protection to marijuana plantations existing in the mountains bordering four provinces in Mindanao, officials said here Wednesday.
Naravy Duquiatan, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Region 12 (PDEA-12) director, said that marijuana plantations have been flourishing in the quad-boundaries of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces because the communist rebels are in cahoots with bandits in protecting the cultivators.
“That’s the intelligence information we’re getting from the ground,” she told reporters after the ceremonial burning here of part of the busted 38,500 mature marijuana plants worth P7.7 million.
Asked if the communist rebels were using money from the sale of marijuana to help sustain its operation, Duquiatan, however, could not give a categorical answer.
Efforts were in vain to get the side of the communist rebels.
The recently busted marijuana plantations sit within the Tampakan mining project, the largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserve in Southeast Asia being pursued by Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
On New Year’s Day 2008, NPA rebels, after disarming security guards, burned the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu, Tampakan.
Brig. Gen. Alfred Corpus, Police Regional Office-12 director, confirmed that the NPA rebels still have a presence in mountains straddling the mining tenement.
“But the communist rebels have been weakened because many of them have returned to the folds of the law,” the police official said.
Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo admitted that marijuana has been a serious problem facing the locality for a long time.
“We have to take action and we are committed to end this long-time problem,” he said.
Escobillo said some people in the mountains resorted to marijuana cultivation due to lack of livelihood opportunity.
The mayor attributed the marijuana bust, the biggest single marijuana haul so far in the area, to the close collaboration between the local government, PDEA, police, military and other concerned government agencies.
According to him, there are still pockets of marijuana farms—either cultivated or naturally-grown, existing in the mountainous boundary of the four provinces.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. lauded the Tampakan local government, the PDEA, police and the military for the big marijuana haul.
“We have cut a major source of marijuana that augurs well in the government’s war on illegal drugs,” he said in a press conference here.
On October 19, two teams composed of different law enforcement agencies conducted operations in the mountains, the first one netting 27,000 mature marijuana plants and the second, 11,500. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)