Roads key to stopping marijuana farming in Benguet?

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CAMP DANGWA, Benguet: The improvement of agricultural production and the construction of farm to market roads (FMRs) might be the solution to the marijuana cultivation problem in this largely agricultural province.

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Benguet Police Provincial Director, Senior Supt. Florante Camuyot, related the experience of Barangay Kayapa, Bakun town that used to be a largely marijuana producing village in the Cordillera.

“We don’t have any plantation in Bakun anymore, specially in Barangay Kayapa, because of the road constructions and the attention given to production of highland vegetable and other crops,” he said.

Barangay Kayapa was linked to the road system in mid 2000 when the provincial government and a private firm constructed the side road to give way to their hydro power plant project and make the village accessible.

The road network brought the community closer to the market, allowing the residents to sell their agricultural produce and have a source of livelihood since residents have shifted from marijuana cultivation to vegetable and rice production.

But prior to the construction of the road, Kayapa was constantly reported as the area where marijuana eradication operations were being conducted.

Bakun, he added, has recently been declared as drug-free.

Camuyot explained that the belief based on the experience in Barangay Kayapa that the concrete solution to stop marijuana production in the province, specially in the remaining villages subject for operation is the construction of FMRs, based on their survey among the residents who clamor for the roads to help them earn through legal means.

Camuyot added that there are at least two villages in Kibungan town with marijuana plantations.

The police have constantly visited Barangay Badeo and Barangay Takadang to destroy marijuana plants.

These villages do not have access roads for the people to bring their legal agricultural products to the market.

“We hope that they will act on this, specially the DILG, because we believe so much that it (roads construction) will solve our concern on marijuana cultivation,” Camuyot said.

The villages of Badeo and Takadang are the most remote and under-developed communities of Kibungan, according to the 2016 survey, and Badeo remains part of the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas.

“In our survey on marijuana cultivation, they [residents]needed income generating and alternative livelihood projects. The government has given them these but sustaining the livelihood projects without the FMR poses a problem. So it’s most likely they will go back to their illegal activities,” Camuyot said.

Data provided by the Police Community Relations Office, show that Benguet has a total of 2,401 drug surrenderers and arrested, including 480 pushers.

Camuyot added that marijuana cultivators are considered as pushers under Republic Act 9165 or the Anti-illegal Drug Law of 2002.

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