MANILA - The Philippines and Japan signed a 1.85 billion yen grant agreement on Monday to shore up the drug rehabilitation component of the Southeast Asian country's anti-drug campaign.
Susumu Ito, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency in the Philippines, said Japan hopes the grant will enable the drug rehabilitation program to "contribute to reducing relapse risk and eventually integrate (drug users) back into their communities."
"We stand together with the (Department of Health) in enhancing rehabilitation and treatment protocols," Ito said during the signing ceremony in Manila, which was also attended by the Philippines' health secretary, Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial.
In addition to the joint drug rehabilitation program, dubbed the CARE program, Japan will also continue its partnership with the Philippines in tackling other key health issues, Ito added.
Ubial said that the grant, worth about 826 million pesos, will be used for infrastructure projects as well as to offer technical assistance in training and capacity building for local health workers involved in drug rehabilitation.
"Right now, we have around 12,000 patients in about 44 rehabilitation centers nationwide," 14 of which are run by the government, she said. However, the authorities have yet to identify all the areas where infrastructure is needed.
The Philippine government is currently waging a massive anti-illegal drug campaign nationwide, as promised during the election campaign season last year by President Rodrigo Duterte. Critics have accused Duterte of having ordered the ruthless extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in police operations.
Since Duterte took office in July last year, more than 2,600 drug suspects said to have fought back during police operations have been killed, while more than 1,300 other killings connected to illegal drugs have also been recorded by authorities.
More than 3,700 other deaths are also under investigation, although the national police deny these are linked with the illegal drug industry and the police campaign against it.