Low crime rate in Batanes but alcoholism rising

Jesus F. Llanto, abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Oct 20 2008 07:49 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2008 09:41 AM

Batanes, the smallest province in terms of land area and population, is also one of the most peaceful places in the country and its almost empty jails are the proof.

Unlike most areas in the Philippines, Batanes remains to be one of the places with lowest crime rate. Incidence of index crimes is uncommon and most of those arrested are those only caught violating ordinances like using bicycles without early warning device.

Eduardo Dasilao of the Batanes provincial office of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) said the occupants of the provincial jail are just the three Vietnamese who were caught poaching in the island of Sabtang.

Illegal poaching is one of the major problems of Batanes. Lalaine Banares, chief of police of Basco said that poachers, who have larger vessels, usually go to Batanes waters whenever there are rough waves.

The absence of crimes, particularly those that are caused by poverty, can be attributed to the low poverty incidence in Batanes. The province recorded a zero percent poverty rate in 2006, data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

Most Ivatan, said local officials we interviewed, engage in agriculture and produce products and food for their own consumption

“You don’t even see a beggar here,” Dasilao told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak

Alcoholism

Police and health officials in the province, however, are alarmed over the high alcohol consumption among the Ivatans.  Banares said that drunk men—some of them caught sleeping on the streets—are among those frequently arrested by the police.

The cool weather, especially during rainy season, said Batanes governor Telesforo Castillejos, is also a major factor. “Ivatans warm themselves by drinking.”

Dr. Jeffrey Canceran of the Batanes General Hospital told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that around 2,600 bottles of alcohol a month are sold in the province.

Canceran said the province’s local wine, mineovaheng, is not enough to meet the demand so most Ivatans shifted to gin. He added that the high consumption may be attributed to the culture and tradition of the Ivatans. Canceran added that during bayanihan, which is still common in Batanes, those who participated were offered drinks.

Most Ivatans, he added, are involved in farming. “Few people here are employed. After farming, most of them drink.”

Canceran said that they have an advocacy campaign that aims to teach students about the effects of alcohol but they are having a hard time getting support from local officials.