GENERAL SANTOS CITY, the Philippines -- Officials from China and the Philippines formally broke ground on the construction of a Chinese-financed 150-bed drug rehabilitation center in southern Philippines' Sarangani province.
The facility, called Dangerous Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, is located in Sarangani as the first Chinese grant aid construction in the Philippines.
"The completion of this project will provide two modern and scientific drug rehabilitation centers that will provide the Philippines with a comfortable treatment environment for the patients," a Chinese embassy statement said.
A similar drug treatment facility will also be built in Agusan del Sur province, also in the southern Philippines, in the coming months.
The embassy said the center, which has a floor area of 6,750 square meters, can accommodate approximately 150 beds.
Roger Tong An, the undersecretary of the Department of Health of the Philippines, and the Chinese embassy's Economic and Commercial Counsellor Jin Yuan attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
An lauded the project and thanked China for its help in the Philippine government's relentless fight against illicit drugs.
"Truly, our undertakings do not only build facilities but also build networks and synergies... whatever good things we build end up building us," he said.
He added, "Let us continue to weave collaborative strategies as we introduce meaningful transformation and significant change for our people... Let us all bear the torch of change and be a beacon of hope for the society especially to those who have fallen victim to the lure of illicit drugs."
Jin, for his part, said the Chinese government will continue to cooperate with a good neighbor like the Philippines. "I believe with our joint efforts, we will share a very bright future together," he said.
The drug rehabilitation center project, undertaken by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), is expected to be completed within 21 months.
In October 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing and reached an agreement with China on the building of drug rehabilitation centers in the Philippines.
Later in 2017, the Chinese and Philippine governments announced that China will help to build two drug rehabilitation centers in Sarangani and Agusan del Sur, both provinces in southern Philippines.
The Philippine government under Duterte launched the anti-drug campaign when he assumed the presidency on June 30, 2016.
Martin Andanar, the secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, told a forum in May 2017 that there are estimated 4.7 million drug users in the Philippines.