Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Karlston Lapniten @InqNationa­l

CAMP DANGWA, BENGUET —The village of Buscalan in Tinglayan town, Kalinga province, has been attracting not only tattoo aficionado­s but also marijuana dealers and users, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcemen­t Agency (PDEA).

Buscalan is home to popular tattoo artist

Whang-od Oggay, the “mambabatok,” or traditiona­l tattoo artist, who uses the handtapped method.

“There are tourists who go there for tourism and marijuana while there are marijuana dealers who go there posing as tourists,” said Edgar Apalla, the PDEA director for Cordillera.

Apalla said 48 people who visited Buscalan last year were arrested for marijuana possession.

The latest suspects to fall were four men who were nabbed on Feb. 17 at a checkpoint in Santiago City, Isabela province, carrying 6,500 grams of dried marijuana leaves worth P812,500 from Buscalan.

The PDEA report about marijuana dealings in the village has not been validated, said Kalinga tourism officer Lorraine Ngao-i.

She said the provincial government was studying the implicatio­ns of the PDEA’s report on tourism at Buscalan.

Non-Cordillera­ns who tried to transport marijuana from Buscalan were among the 307 drug suspects arrested in 2017, Apalla said.

Transshipm­ent point

Apalla, however, said Buscalan appeared to be a transshipm­ent point.

The biggest marijuana plantation­s are located in the remote areas of Mt. Bitulayung­an and Mt. Chumanchil, both at Barangay Loccong in Tinglayan, he said.

In 2013, P153.8 million worth of marijuana plants was uprooted on Mt. Bitulayung­an. Three years later, P870 million worth was destroyed on Mt. Chumanchil. About P2.2 billion worth of marijuana—the biggest in PDEA history—was burned last November.

During a four-day operation last month at Loccong, PDEA agents torched marijuana plants worth P15.5 million.

Apalla said the PDEA had tracked down the movement of marijuana from Kalinga to Baguio City.

Drug dealers serving time at the national penitentia­ry in Muntinlupa City were managing the marijuana trade, he said.

Dealers were selling marijuana in hotels or night spots. Payments were made through banks, making the transfer of drug money harder to trace, Apalla said.

PDEA agents last year arrested a dealer who used money transfer apps of a telephone provider to remit money to an inmate at the national penitentia­ry.

Deeper probe

A report was submitted to the Anti-Money Laundering Council so it could initiate a deeper probe, Apalla said.

The PDEA also reported an increase in the seizure of marijuana oil disguised as ordinary cosmetics.

Apalla said marijuana bought directly from cultivator­s is sold at an average of P2,250 per kilo or P69 a stick. The price is four times higher in Metro Manila.

 ?? —EV ESPIRITU ?? Tourists go to the sleepy village of Buscalan, where renowned tattoo artist Whang-od Oggay lives, for traditiona­l tattooing.
—EV ESPIRITU Tourists go to the sleepy village of Buscalan, where renowned tattoo artist Whang-od Oggay lives, for traditiona­l tattooing.

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