TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte: The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has listed 839 drug-affected villages in Eastern Visayas as of the third week of August this year, representing 19 percent of the region’s total number of villages.
About 361 villages affected by the drug menace are in Leyte, 219 in Southern Leyte, 75 in Samar, 74 in Eastern Samar, 59 in Northern Samar and 51 in Biliran.
The region has 4,390 villages in six provinces.
In a report to the Regional Development Council, PDEA Eastern Visayas Regional Director Edgar Jubay said 830 villages are slightly affected, nine are moderately affected and no area is seriously affected.
Citing the official list, Jubay added that illegal drugs distribution is being carried out by 3,101 pushers, 65 financiers and 25 traffickers.
The number of users on the PDEA list is at 2,069, way below the nearly 17,000 self-confessed drug dependents who surrendered to the Philippine National Police.
While the drug trade has been minimized because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug war, PDEA said illicit activities continue in some areas with the involvement of some government officials.
“One challenge is the capability of high-profile drug personalities to continue their illegal drug trade using new technology such as digital wire transfers through banks without having to expose themselves physically, thus hampering operatives from arresting them,” Jubay explained.
Modi operandi of drug traders include using minors to peddle drugs, peddling through commercial courier services, using some jail facilities as temporary stock and releasing areas, transacting inside hotels, improvising packages, placing drugs inside drinking straws and softdrink bottle and use of cocks trained for fighting.
PDEA identified the region’s drug trafficking route to be Matnog port in Sorsogon, Allen and San Isidro port in Northern Samar, San Ricardo and Liloan port in Southern Leyte, Ormoc City port in western Leyte and other small public and private ports throughout Region 8.
Jubay said he is optimistic that impact of the government’s anti-drug war will be felt in affected communities in the next few months.
Authorities have arrested 695 drug suspects as of August 21 or 54-percent increase from the 451 nabbed in the same period last year.
A total of 13,912.435 grams of shabu have been seized in various operations from January to August 21 this year, way high compared to the 1,523.593 grams in 2015.