The proliferation of illegal drugs is one of the primary concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asean Affairs Ma. Helen dela Vega.
Dela Vega said this problem needs special attention because of the growing number of victims.
In an exclusive interview at the sidelines of the Asean 2017 Joint Consultative Meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center, dela Vega said her counterparts in the region are looking for long and medium term solutions to stop the drug menace.
She said they have targeted a drug-free Asean by 2015 but it did not materialize because infrastructures needed to rehabilitate drug dependents were not enough.
“We have developed a regional work plan in combating illegal drugs which is more comprehensive hoping that this will work for good,” she pointed out.
Dela Vega said Asean officials are focusing not only on the prosecution of drug suspects but also the rehabilitation of drug dependents.
She said the sudden proliferation of illegal drugs resulted in security and economic problems because of its social cost.
The official also said that President Rodrigo Duterte ratified the Convention on Human Trafficking on February 22, 2017, making the Philippines the sixth Asean member to ratify it.
It took effect on March 8, 2017.
The other five ASEAN members that ratified the anti-human trafficking pact were Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
“Under the rules, the sixth country who will ratify the convention will make it effective,” Dela Vega explained.
“These are the efforts the institutional level are doing in terms of cooperation with other Asean member states and this is the reason why we have preparatory meetings which we are hosting in the Philippines, from the working group up to the level of ministers and even to the level of the summit,” she said.