Troops uproot, set fire to P156-M weed

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CAMP BADO DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet: An estimated P156-million worth of fully grown marijuana plants were destroyed and torched by troops. The weeds were planted in a 50,500-square meter plantation discovered during a 4-day weed eradication drive in 12 sites at Mount Bitulayungan, Barangay Luccong, Tinglayan, Kalinga recently.

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Police Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, regional director of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera (PRO-Cor), said the 12 sites were planted with 733,800 fully grown marijuana plants.

The troops from the Regional Anti-Drug Special Operations Task Group (Raidsotg), Kalinga Provincial Police Office, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Cordillera and the Philippine Army also found in the sites 75 kilos of dried marijuana leaves, 49 kilos of pulverized marijuana leaves and 85 kilos of marijuana seeds.

“Our recent successful marijuana eradication operation only shows our firm commitment to intensify the destruction of marijuana plants and free the region from other forms of illegal drugs in order to protect the people from the serious negative effects of the cultivation and use of various types of illegal drugs,” Magalong stressed, citing that more marijuana eradication operations will be conducted in identified plantation sites because it is the harvest time of the illegal hemp.

In the first wave of operation, Police Sr. Supt. Oliver Enmodias, chief of the PRO-Cor’s Regional Operations and Plans Division, said that the operating troops spotted four separate plantation areas in Sitio Bitulayungan, Barangay Luccong, Tinglayan, Kalinga covering a land area of 34,000 square meters. These areas, he said, are covered with 408,000 fully grown marijuana.

All the marijuana plants and seeds were uprooted and burned on site by the joint operating team although samples of the illegal hemp were taken to be used for the ceremonial burning at the PRO-Cor on June 24.

On Wednesday, the Robinson R44 chopper of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) crashed in the area when it was about to land in an open space because of alleged sudden change in wind direction and speed.

As a result of the accident, Enmodias, together with Chief Inspector Dexter Vitug, the helicopter pilot, and PO3 Jude Edwin Duque, chopper aide, were injured and were immediately treated at the Kalinga provincial police office headquarters.

On Saturday, Francisco Ramos from the AFP-GEN Insurance and Jim Mulvaney, Airclaims Surveyor from Singapore were airlifted to the crash site to conduct assessment and inspection.

After almost five hours, the duo left Kalinga after completing site inspection and interviews with some personnel who witnessed the incident several days ago.

Eleven personnel from the PNP-SAF, 20 from the 17IB, Philippine Army and five from the Kalinga Provincial Public Safety Company were left behind to secure the helicopter. SAF aircraft mechanics were instructed to remove the avionics instruments and forward-looking infrared. SAF is currently negotiating with National Grid Corp. of the Philippines for the extraction of the remains of the chopper.

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