PDEA revalidates South Cotabato barangays declared as drug-free

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 November) – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has intensified the revalidation activities for barangays in South Cotabato province that have already been declared as drug-cleared.

Francis del Valle, deputy director of PDEA-Region 12, said on Friday the move is aimed to ensure the total eradication of the remaining illegal drug-related activities in the concerned barangays.

The provincial capitol of South Cotabato in Koronadal City. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

He acknowledged that even if a barangay was already declared as cleared, there is a chance that they would revert to the previous drug-affected status.

“This is a continuing initiative and all declared drug-cleared barangays should follow the program’s parameters so they can retain their status,” he said in a press conference in Koronadal City.

Del Valle said the revalidation activities are spearheaded by the agency, which co-chairs the regional oversight committee on barangay drug clearing program along with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The Department of Health and the Philippine National Police serve as members of the committee.

As of Friday, he said 159 of the province’s 199 barangays have been already declared as drug-cleared while 32 remain affected by the illegal drug problem.

Four barangays are considered as unaffected while four others are classified as drug-free, he said.

The parameters for the assessment, as set by the Dangerous Drugs Board, are the “non-availability of drug supply; absence of drug-dependent, pusher, user, absence of clandestine drug laboratory; active involvement of barangay officials in anti-drug activities; the existence of drug awareness, preventive education and information programs; and the existence of voluntary and compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation processing desks.”

Barangays are also required to ensure the drug surrenderers in their areas properly complete the process or graduate from the community-based rehabilitation program.

Del Valle said the program remains among the agency’s top priorities as it could eventually help solve the country’s illegal drug problem.

He said it complements the continuing intensified drug eradication campaign in the affected communities.

“Our focus before is just on operations and the problem just keeps on repeating. But this time, we are doing it along with the clearing of our barangays,” he said.

Through the program, he said they are able to identify the illegal drug victims or the users in the communities and provide them with proper interventions.

This includes rehabilitation, especially through the community-based drug rehabilitation program, and the provision of various support services.

“These users would eventually stay away from illegal drugs, eliminating the market of the manufacturers and suppliers,” he said. (MindaNews)