FLORA, Apayao—This province has just been declared “Drug-Free” during the celebration of its 22nd Founding Anniversary on Feb. 13 in the town of Kabugao.
Siblings Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang and Gov. Elias C. Bulut Jr. joined regional directors Marlo L. Iringan of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Police Gen. Elmo Francis O. Sarona, and Editha S. Puddoc of the National Police Commission in declaring Apayao drug-free at the packed Kabugao Municipal Gymnasium.
Joining them were Vice Governor Remy Albano and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, who passed and adopted Resolution No. 12, declaring Apayao as a drug-cleared province, authored by SP Mailah Haydee L. Ballesteros.
The resolution explained the move complied with a request from the Apayao Provincial Police Office “with the mandate of the national leadership to fight and eradicate the illegal drug problem in the entire country,” along with supporting documents such as declarations from drug-infected barangays that their areas are already cleared of the drug menace.
Sarona, who was the keynote speaker, commended Apayao for becoming a dynamic province from its modest stature, and thriving to unleash its full economic potential.
He said that being a drug-free province is another milestone in the rich history of Apayao, and lauded the swift action of the provincial and municipal leadership, the cooperation of the people, NGOs and civil society and “the moral ascendancy from their ranks over the huge task.”
Sarona said they conducted drug tests on all police officers here and nobody turned positive. They initially estimated over a thousand individuals affected in 184 barangays, but upon the implementation of Oplan Tokhang in Cordillera, the figures skyrocketed to 21,000 drug personalities from 815 barangays.
In Apayao, the initial estimate was 23 individuals in 19 barangays, but after “Tokhang,” there were 1,177 dependents in 102 barangays.
In the town of Flora alone, over 230 persons voluntarily surrendered and admitted to using “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) during the height of the government’s campaign, and expressed willingness to submit themselves to a rehabilitation program.
Sarona said the Philippine National Police wants “to continue to manifest their commitment in the eradication of illegal drugs in the region.”
“We were caught flat-footed by (recent issues) but now we are here to celebrate victory against illegal drugs,” Sarona told the crowd.
Rep. Bulut-Begtang said she hesitated at first that Apayao be declared drug-free because she was afraid drug syndicates may take the opportunity to resume operations. But upon hearing the provincial police director’s message, she said “there is reason to accept it.”
Gov. Bulut said the provincial government is proud of the PNP, the local government leaders and barangay officials for their cooperation. He said the unity among political leaders is now known as the pride of Apayao as compared to neighboring provinces.
The governor said that because of sincerity to serve the people and careful planning, Apayao lifted its standing from the second poorest province several years back to its present fifth place in the list of poorest provinces in the country.
Also present to witness the signing by Gov. Bulut of the Resolution which was placed in a big billboard were mayors, vice mayors and members of the Sangguniang Bayan from the seven municipalities namely Calanasan, Conner, Flora, Kabugao, Luna, Pudtol and Sta. Marcela.