PRESIDENT DIGONG DUTERTE’S war against drugs was both popular and unpopular.
Popular among those families who had a member under the influence of drugs. But unpopular to several sectors due to the indiscriminate killings perpetrated by misguided cops who were emboldened after the President said the government will defend them in court in case they get involved in killings of drug suspects.
We heard sad, horrifying tales of those indiscriminately killed. In fact, one case in Bohol was a drug dependent who got released from jail and went back to the trade of peddling drugs. Upon his sighting, a cop chased after the drug suspect who ran inside their residence.
Despite kneeling down (asking for mercy) at their sala, the cruel cop shot him dead in front of his family. There are many more blood-curdling tales.
In fact, this brought Duterte intense criticism in the bar of public opinion. Now with President Marcos at the helm, we seem not to hear a single strong statement since his assumption into office on what he is doing categorically in this campaign against drugs. Except for the directive of his DILG topman Benhur Abalos for all 1000 generals and colonels to resign (courtesy) as some of them are involved in drug protection and/or operation. Even that, people opine that Marcos as president and commander-in-chief should have made the order himself to give the directive more gravitas and a sense of urgency.
That relative silence could have encouraged the drug level to level up to its peak again. Lately, some P69 million worth of shabu was seized in Northern Samar while on board a Toyota Vios. The vehicle’s registered owner was a Boholano.
However, Highway Patrol ruled that the car was last registered in 2019 and said the car was resold twice already.
The logical analysis points out that at least part of the shipment could likely be booked intended for Bohol as Samar is just a number of stone’s throws away from Ubay Port (passing through Leyte).
On the same day, P120 million of shabu was likewise intercepted at the Mactan International Airport. PDEA authorities said part of those shipments could be possibly eyed for Bohol considering the proximity of Samar to Ubay Port and Mactan Cebu Airport’s passengers having easy accessibility to seaports facing Ceuu in Bohol (Tagbilaran, Tubigon and Loon).
And what lends some credence to this interconnection scenario was that also two weeks ago, the biggest one-time haul of shabu in Bohol transpired in Songculan, Dauis where P8.5 million worth of shabu was seized from a courier. It was tracked by authorities that the marketing guy of that particular shipment was based in the Labuyog Penal Colony in Leyte which is very accessible to Ubay town.
The frequency, quantity and proximity of these fantabulous drug seizures among the Visayan islands mentioned conjure up images of perhaps a “concerted effort” to flood the market once again with the prohibited drug. Is the ugly drug menace back in business again – in a huge way?
If the Marcos administration will not make any seriously drastic move to check on these voluminous entries of shabu at the various nearby ports, then we fear the country may be likened once again becoming a possible Mexico where drugs are traded like ordinary over-the-counter peanuts. A narco-state in the making as Digong feared endlessly as he slept through his turbulent nights?
Here at home, we challenge the Aumentado administration to implement drastic security measures to watch keenly over the borders. Only last week, happily, we saw 4 K-9 dogs at the Capitol under training. That’s a good start.
We need to check every disembarking passenger of commercial vessels. Just as important as passenger risk profiling, every landing vehicle (buses, vans and cars) entering our seaports hereinafter should now be thoroughly checked. It must never be said that shipping drugs to Bohol is “just a walk in the park” among drug lords and dealers. It is an invitation to a digger disaster coming.
Containing this “scourge of society” is indeed never easy – more especially at this juncture. It is perhaps akin to the skyrocketing prices of onions in which the government seems next to hopeless in finding a concrete solution.
But one thing is certain, the drug problem in our neck of the woods has not become smaller.
WINNING THE “FISH BATTLE”
YEARS HAVE COME AND GONE, and the “battle for low fish prices” has always been won by the “Fish Cartel” and the illegal commercial fish boats that transgress the municipal water territories of the province which is 15 kilometers from the shoreline.
The “Fish Cartel” controls the financing and purchase of fish -and controlling supply- virtually dictating, therefore, what prices the province can tolerate- normally retailed at P50 per kilo higher compared to other nearby provinces. Highway robbery- well, seaway heist, if you want.
The sea marauders from other provinces (violating our sea lanes) escape scot-free- we do not have enough Baywatch sea police to arrest them. The rule is 15 kilometers from our shoreline- that seawater is ours for fishing. The rule is broken more than observed.
Imagine how easily that ruling can be violated in the darkness of the night since we are just 28 kilometers away from the vast fish-eating province of Cebu.
So, here we are suffering from the lack of what used to be the main source of protein for Filipinos-fish- for both the rich and poor alike. For years.
Worse, when Typhoon Odette punished us with a fury of a woman scorned, most of the fishing infrastructure in Bohol was all but destroyed (fish cages, boats and nets.)
Remember Bohol is largely a coastal province where 30 of its 47 towns are facing the sea and 33% of the 1.4 million people are somehow involved in the fishing or seafood industry.
It is a good thing the new governor Aris took the problem to heart and undertook a “battle for the Fish” experiment that seems to be succeeding at first glance. The government deployed the old city airport as the venue and dumped tons of fish (three varieties ) there and announced it three days before arrival when fish at the public markets were soaring at prices like P240-P260 per kilo. It was advertised government will sell -no questions asked- the fish at P 180 per kilo.
Lo and behold, prices in the public markets went down to P 160 per kilo, indicating how greedy the appetite for profit was possessing the souls of the traders and hoarders. When the airport inventory was consumed, prices of course went skywards once more- happy days are here again. This we all learned from “Bohol Buy-Back Fish” coordinator Jeronme Salvio Mandanguit.
Looking deeper, there is also a problem of supply, really as the 63,106 registered fisher folks in the province can supply only 42% of the demand for fish here. Part of the problem is our sea lane territory is overfished- by locals and unwelcomed strangers alike. We are, therefore, glad that a multifaceted approach to the problem is being seriously studied.
First, 16 fish cooperatives vowed to sell 50% of their produce to the government while an NGO has promised to provide liquidity (cash) if the Gcash method fails, and since many still have no bank accounts. Thirdly, Landbank which is mandated to specifically help agriculture will provide wherewithal like implements and materials for those affected by the calamities.
If we may add, the sources tapped by the government must be multiplied so that there is no inventory gap in the fish supply at the city airport at any time and, thereby, sustain the battle against unscrupulous stakeholders in the business.
We also fully endorse that letter petition by the Bohol Fish Producers Cooperatives through Gov. Aumentado and Tommy Abapo- addressed to the Philippine president as concurrent Agriculture Secretary to ” condone for three years the payments under the Fishpond Leasehold Agreement (FLA) from January 2022 to December 2024 of those affected by calamities connected with the Bohol Fish Farmers and Fishpond Operators.
The exemptions would cover rentals, licenses, permits and fees. Our take is that if the magicians in Congress can endorse such esoteric instruments as a Maharlkika Investment Fund using the billions of pesos using government money, they can so easily grant this shot in the arm as a proper response to Nature’s cruelty against our fisherfolks.
While this battle for emancipation from greed and cartelization is still a work in progress, the initial success where the movement was able to push the marketplace backward means that policies, nurtured by pure goodwill for the people at large and devoid of vested interests can work. And will work well once polished. Shall we?
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