THE Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) is set to implement alternative development programs for marijuana farmers in Bukidnon province, following the discovery some P20 million worth of marijuana in a plantation in Cabanglasan town.

DDB Vice Chair Paul Oaminal said the programs provide funds and technical assistance to marijuana farmers for them to be able to plant abaca and mulberry, instead of planting illegal plants.

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In an emailed statement to Sun.Star, Oaminal said he will personally visit Bukidnon to implement the program “as soon as possible” after Cabanglasan town Mayor Rogelio Castillanes made a request to avail of DDB’s Alternative Development Program.

Oaminal disclosed that last year, San Fernando town in Bukidnon received at least P2 million under the program. Authorities had earlier discovered a marijuana plantation in the town.

The amount, said Oaminal, served as seed money for the expansion of abaca farming of the municipality’s 24 barangays.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Northern Mindanao believes the marijuana plantation was being protected by private armed groups. The military said these armed groups belong to the New People’s Army.

PDEA-Northern Mindanao operatives together with 300th Air Intelligence Security Group, 8th Infantry Battalion of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, Tactical Operation Group Philippine Air Force raided the plantation and uprooted marijuana plants scattered within a two hectare plantation.

PDEA-Northern Mindanao Regional Director Gilberto Abanto Jr., said it took them several days to uproot the marijuana plants because of the considerable size of the plantation—the biggest to be discovered in Northern Mindanao so far—and due to poor weather condition and difficult terrain as well.

Oaminal said he will also conduct an ocular inspection at the marijuana plantation and study what crops are suitable to the soil of Cabanglasan town.

He said the DDB will continue to pursue the program as it has been found effective in provinces like Benguet, which has been declared marijuana-free last year. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)