GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The number of drug-cleared and unaffected barangays in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) has increased to 985 as of start of July and more are expected to join the list in the coming months.

Kath Abad, spokesperson of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Region 12 (PDEA-12), said on Wednesday the number comprises 85 percent of the 1,158 barangays within the region's four provinces and four cities.

She said the regional oversight committee on the barangay drug-clearing program is set to assess more areas out of the 173 still listed as affected based on the parameters set by the Dangerous Drugs Board.

The committee, co-chaired by PDEA and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, includes the Department of Health and Philippine National Police.

Abad said it approved in a series of deliberations in June the declaration of 102 barangays in South Cotabato as drug-cleared and drug-free.

She said 19 barangays were reclassified as drug-cleared, 82 were retained with such status, and one unaffected was certified as drug-free.

A report released by PDEA-12 showed that 132 of 141 barangays in Sarangani, 156 of 199 in South Cotabato, 439 of 543 in North Cotabato, 226 of 249 in Sultan Kudarat, and nine of 26 in this city are already considered as drug-cleared.

Nine barangays in Sultan Kudarat and one in Sarangani were certified early this year as drug-unaffected, joining 13 other barangays in parts of the region.

“The remaining drug-affected barangays have different classifications from moderate to severe, and they are continuously monitored in terms of the presence of drug dens, plantations, users, and pushers,” she told reporters.

Abad said that based on a directive issued by the DDB, all barangays, including those considered as unaffected, need to undergo periodic assessment and submit the requirements.

The parameters for the assessment are the “non-availability of drug supply; absence of drug-dependent, pusher, user, absence of clandestine drug laboratory; active involvement of barangay officials in anti-drug activities; the existence of drug awareness, preventive education and information programs; and the existence of voluntary and compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation processing desks.”

Barangays are also required to ensure the drug surrenderers in their areas to properly complete the process or graduate from the community-based rehabilitation program.

“There’s no assurance that the drug-cleared and unaffected will remain as such so it is important for them to undergo periodic assessment and deliberation by the oversight committee,” she said. (PNA)