Governor Al Francis Bichara said the provincial government plans to construct a temporary recovery facility, which he called a “makeshift” site, for the drug dependents in the village (barangay) of Tula Tula in Ligao City.
He said the area, located northwest of this city, was used as temporary base camp of the Philippine Army’s 22nd Infantry Battalion, which is under the command of the 9th Infantry Division, in its fight against the communist rebels operating in the province.
Bichara said the government troopers left the military camp several months ago after nearly a decade of using it for their operations.
The three-hectare property, estimated to be six kilometers west of the Ligao City proper and adjacent to the agricultural center of the provincial government, is being utilized as a “Community Assistance Center” of the Provincial Police Office (PNP) after it was vacated by the government troopers.
Bichara said last week, he called for a meeting with his department heads and partner line agencies from the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Health Insurance Company (Philhealth), Department of Education and Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) regarding the plan for the recovery facility.
Records of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) showed that the region has a total of 36,977 drug surrenderees from July 1 to August 13, nearly a third of whom came from Albay.
PRO5 data said there were 10,832 surrenderees in Albay, 10,209 of whom were identified as “users” while the rest were deemed drug peddlers or “pushers.”
The provincial chief executive said the limited space of the rehabilitation center in Malinao town, northeast of this city, which has an 80-person capacity, could not accommodate the big number of drug surrenderees in the province.
He said the drug dependents must undergo “intervention” inside a rehabilitation facility so they could recover from the influence of illegal drugs.
“We should help them return to the mainstream (of society) so they will not return to their illegal activity,” said Bichara.
He said the provincial government has established a Technical Working Group for the plan with him as its chairman.
Bichara instructed provincial engineer Dante Baclao to make the project plan of what will be called the “Albay Rehabilitation Center.”
He asked Baclao to determine the necessary equipment and the budget required to fully realize the project.
The provincial government through its Provincial Health Office and PSWD has closely coordinated with DOH, Philhealth, DSWD and PNP and other related agencies on the program for the drug dependents.
Bichara said they plan to categorize the surrendered “drug personalities” according to dependency, such as “heavy” or “less users,” to prioritize who must undergo immediate intervention from the agencies, particularly the DOH and DSWD.
He said a budget will be set aside for the program as he believes the drug dependents should be given “importance” so they won’t become a threat to society.
Bichara said he is thankful to Philhealth which offered to allocate funds for the program.
“Even the DSWD and other partner agencies promised to give their share,” he added.
After completion of construction of the recovery facility, Bichara said the PNP will be tasked with providing security to the place. (by Jorge Hallare, PNA)