SADANGA, Mountain Province – The municipal government underscored that local officials are never promoting tourism in the municipality banking on the lucrative marijuana trade.
Mayor Gabino Ganggangan said that within the Bontoc-Tinglayan-Tabuk has become a good cover for the lucrative marijuana trade but it should not be the way to promote the growth of tourism in a certain locality like Sadanga which is located along the said route.
“The fast increasing number of apprehensions, and most likely more unapprehended ones within the said areas show that many purported tourists travel to these places to buy the prohibited marijuana either in raw leaves or in processed form as oil or chocolate,” Ganggangan stressed.
The municipal mayor claimed that it has been observed that many tourists, both local and foreign, who had been apprehended by combined police operatives and anti-narcotics agents for allegedly carrying and transporting marijuana were on their return trip home from the places where the said route passes.
According to him, the latest apprehension of tourists having in their possession marijuana last week along the Bontoc-Tinglayan-Tabuk road showed a well-organized syndicate from Metro Manila which involve even minors being used as couriers of the illegal hemp.
Based on a report from the Cordillera office of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-CAR), drug personalities, especially couriers, have found ways to avoid being caught by the combined operating troops as they directly transact with marijuana dealers in the identified marijuana-producing areas in the Cordillera.
Further, the PDEA-CAR revealed that drug dealers usually pose as tourists and they pretend to visit places or make people believe that they are going to see famous traditional tatoo artist Apo Wang-ud but their real motive is to get marijuana leaves or bricks for them to be able to sustain their lucrative trade.
Ganggangan asserted that whatever benefits derived from tourism is not worth the damage the marijuana trade and probably other illegal drug trade is inflicting to the public.
Moreover, he noted that tourism and the illegal drug trade has numerous negative impact to their cultural traditions and values system which had been passed on to them by their ancestors.
For the past several decades, the Cordillera has been known to be the major producer of high-grade marijuana being circulated in the different parts of the country by lawless elements.
Many domestic visitors had been successively arrested by combined police operatives and anti-narcotics agents after having found in their possession alleged dried marijuana leaves in brick form, dried marijuana leaves in tubular form, among others, during separate anti-drug operations that have been conducted in Mountain Province and Kalinga over the past several months following tips from concerned residents who are probably from the said places.
Despite the conduct of series of marijuana eradication operations in identified marijuana-producing areas in Kalinga and Benguet, marijuana continues to thrive in remote villages of the region considering that the illegal hemp is suitable to be grown in the highland areas.