BAGUIO CITY: The Diocese of Baguio supports the outcry of concerned agricultural industry stakeholders in denouncing vegetable smuggling that could eventually kill the lucrative agriculture industry of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

In his pastoral message read in all parishes of the Catholic church in Baguio and Benguet, Bishop Victor Bendico pointed out that the unabated smuggling of vegetables greatly hurts local farmers.

During a recent celebration at the La Trinidad vegetable trading post, in Benguet, Bendico said the people sounded the clarion call to maintain the vibrancy and sustainability of vegetable trading not only in the city but also in other strategic areas in the Cordillera region.

"Our agricultural environment will always be at the losing end when smuggled vegetables flooding the market [are available] at a cheaper price. This causes a drastic reduction in the buying prices of locally produced ones. Smuggling devastates our socioeconomic atmosphere greatly based on the vegetable industry," the bishop added.

Further, he said, smuggling divides the people, hence, the government must protect the farmers and promote locally-grown vegetable products.

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Earlier, concerned agriculture industry stakeholders noted the allegedly rampant smuggling of vegetables from China that poses a serious threat to the robust growth of the CAR agriculture sector over the past several months.

As a result, they said, vegetable farmers saw a significant drop in the buying prices of their produce.

While agriculture is the main source of livelihood in the administrative region, Bendico urged growers to be cautious with their excessive use of agrochemicals, which he said are major contributors to environmental pollution and health problems.

According to him, improper use and disposal of pesticides and insecticides pollute the soil and water resources.

Moreover, he said, the same chemical agents pose health risks to the farmers and their families, as well as buyers and consumers of farm products.

On the other hand, Bendico rued the consumerist mentality that has prompted people to purchase more than what they need.

"Our excesses increase waste that makes the natural environment suffer also. The food-waste attitude is an insult to the poor who do not have food on the table," he said.

The bishop also said he recognizes that Baguio City has been known for its chilly temperature, pine-dominated landscape and panoramic atmosphere but is now becoming highly urbanized and overdeveloped with condominiums, high-rise hotels and commercial buildings.

"Baguio City will no longer be the City of Pines but will become a City of Concrete. Urbanization and development when it becomes excessive would have its collateral damage," Bendico added.

He said commercialization induces cutting of pine trees and re-landscaping of mountains for high-rise buildings and man-made eco-commercial parks, causing destructive transformation of the natural to artificial toward a profit-oriented development to the detriment of the environment.

In Benguet, according to the bishop, serious environmental concerns are rising from pollution of Balili river of La Trinidad and its tributaries, waste mismanagement, air and water quality degradation, and deforestation of declared natural watersheds and forests and mountain parks like Mount Pulag caused by aggressive expansion of commercial farming and the cash-crop mentality.

Bendico called for proper balance between economic and social development and environmental protection.