As of Friday, September 7, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has marked at least 2,159 villages in Eastern Visayas as drug-cleared.
According to PDEA Easter Visayas Regional Director Edgar Jubay, this number represents 77% of the 2,797 identified villages in the region which are drug-affected.
“We were asked why we require many documents to declare a village as drug-cleared. We have to make sure that all standards are met, otherwise we don’t have the credibility to declare an area as drug-cleared,” said Jubay in a press briefing, explaining the process behind drug-clearing a village.
The breakdown of the 2,159 cleared villages show that 557 are in Leyte, 276 in Eastern Samar, 263 in Samar, 183 in Northern Samar, 392 in Southern Leyte, and 108 in Biliran. The remaining villages that need to be drug-cleared are primarily centered around big cities like Tacloban and Ormoc.
Past declaring the villages drug-cleared, Jubay said that the PDEA will be continuing to monitor the villages to ensure to success and sustainability of the installed anti-drug programs.
A drug-clear status may be revoked should the local officials fail to continue the anti-drug campaign. An oversight committee is currently looking into possibly revoking the drug-cleared declaration of 20 villages in the region, citing a failure by the community officials to keep the drug trade from again proliferating.
“It doesn’t mean that once an area is declared, there will be no more drugs trade. The conduct of operation will help sustain their status. We will revert the declaration if village officials are doing nothing to combat illegal drugs after the declaration,” Jubay added. He refused to name the specific villages when speaking to press. However, he urged village authorities to rise to the challenge of monitoring their areas with the help of village watchmen and volunteers.
“The bigger responsibility lies on village officials to maintain, sustain, or even enhance their status,” he added.
The number of drug-cleared villages shows significant progress for the anti-drug campaign pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte. However, PDEA says that illicit activities still continue in some areas, even sometimes with the involvement of narco-politicians, modus operandi, and thanks to the quick rise of available technology. The PDEA is also tasked with addressing these larger concerns, as well as in cleaning up individual areas.