NPA, Abu Sayyaf in drug trafficking

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — NEW People’s Army rebels and the al Qaeda-backed Abu Sayyaf Group are into illegal drug activities to raise funds for their organizations, according to the US State Department.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said the Abu Sayyaf and NPA groups are directly linked to drug trafficking activities. The report said the Abu Sayyaf provides security for marijuana cultivation, protection for drug trafficking operations and local drug distribution operations particularly in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

It added that the Abu Sayyaf continues to provide protection for major drug trafficking groups operating in the Sulu archipelago in exchange for cash. Police and military officials have reported that many members of the extremist group that gained notoriety for kidnap-for-ransom and murder case in Mindanao are drug users themselves.

On the other hand, the US report said NPA cadres earn money to feed their members by providing protection to drug traffickers and marijuana cultivators.

Reports from the Dangerous Drugs Board chaired by Anselmo S. Avenido, Jr. said there are at least 60 marijuana cultivation sites in nine regions of the country compared with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s estimate of 120 sites in 2006.

The US State Department report said the lack of fuel for military and police helicopters makes it difficult for the Philippine government to keep up with rapid marijuana re-cultivation.

The Journal Group has been a witness to this problem, having joined a number of marijuana eradication operations in Cordillera Region where anti-narcotics agents virtually begged members of the US Drug Enforcement Administration for money needed to buy aviation gas.

In all these operations, soldiers and policemen used their bare hands to uproot thousands of fully-grown marijuana crops before burning them on site.

Officials said NPA guerrillas control and protect most marijuana plantation sites. Most of the marijuana produced in the Philippines is for local consumption with the remainder smuggled to Korea , Japan , Malaysia and Taiwan , the US report said.

The Abu Sayyaf Group along with elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are also directly involved in smuggling as well as protection of methamphetamine production and its transportation to other parts of the country and across Southeast Asia.

The Philippines exports shabu to Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the United States particularly Guam and Saipan, according to Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force commander Director Jefferson P. Soriano.