CAMP DANGWA — The Benguet Provincial Police Office (PPO) sees the construction of farm to market roads (FMRs) as solution to the marijuana cultivation problem in this largely agricultural province.
Benguet PPO director Police Senior Superintendent Florante Camuyot told PNA about the experience in barangay Kayapa, Bakun town, which used to be a largely marijuana producing village in the Cordillera.
He said “we don’t have any plantation in Bakun anymore specially in barangay Kayapa because of the road construction.”
Barangay Kayapa was linked to the road system in the mid 2000 when the provincial government and a company constructed the road to give way to their hydro power plant project and to make the village accessible.
This road brought the community closer to the market, allowing the residents to sell their agricultural produce and have a source of livelihood.
But prior to the construction of the road, Kayapa was constantly reported by the police as the area where marijuana eradication operations were conducted.
Bakun, he said, has earlier been declared as drug-free.
Camuyot said Kayapa is now different from Kibungan town where there are still two marijuana affected barangays.
The police constantly visit the villages to destroy marijuana plants. Barangays Badeo and Takadang remains inaccessible with the absence of access roads to allow the people to bring their legal agricultural products to the market.
In these barangays, Camuyot said they continue to do marijuana destruction operations and hold community relations programs aside from linking with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) about the recommendation to solve the marijuana cultivation. “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.
Barangay Badeo and Takadang are the most remote communities of Kibungan. They are also the most under-developed barangays because of the absence of infrastructure projects like roads, among others.
Badeo, in the most recent survey in 2016, was still part of the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantage Areas (GIDA).
Camuyot said just like the two barangays, Kayapa in Bakun Benguet was once inaccessible because of the non construction of FMR but with the road, residents have shifted from marijuana planting to vegetable and rice production.
He said they were able to stop the production of marijuana in Kayapa, not solely because of eradication or the people fearing for their lives because of “Oplan Tokhang”, but because the residents who used to cultivate marijuana are now producing agricultural products, and are able to earn from the sale of their produce.
He said the sincere commitment of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to rid the country of illegal drugs — “Oplan Tokhang” and the “Double Barrel Reloaded”– are contributory factors in their continuing success.
This is aside from the contribution of the community which also plays a big role in addressing the marijuana cultivation issue in this province. “They report to us the presence of marijuana cultivation sites,” he said.
Camuyot reiterated the belief that based on the experience in Kayapa barangay that the concrete solution to stop marijuana production in the province specially in the remaining barangays subject for operation is the construction of farm to market roads.
He related the survey they conducted that showed the residents clamor for the construction of roads to make them productive and be able to solve the marijuana cultivation problem.
“In our survey in relation to the marijuana cultivation, they (residents) needed income generating and alternative livelihood projects. The government has given them but sustaining the livelihood project without the farm to market roads poses a problem. So it’s most likely they will go back to their illegal activities,” he said.
Based on the data provided by the chief of the Police Community Relations Office of PPO-Benguet to PNA over the weekend, Benguet has a total of 2,401 drug surrenderers including those arrested. Out of the number, there were 480 pushers and 17 of them are females.
Camuyot said that marijuana cultivators are considered as pushers under Republic Act 9165 or the anti illegal drug law of 2002.
“Most of our surrenderers have already finished their community based rehabilitation. But we still have few surrenderers undergoing it for six months to two years as mandatory rehabilitation. We have already informed our partner agencies like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) about our recommended solutions on marijuana cultivation. We hope that they will act on this specially the DILG because we believe so much that it will solve our concern on marijuana cultivation. Dionisio Dennis Jr./PNA-northboundasia.com