CAMP DANGWA, Benguet — The improvement of agricultural production and the construction of more farm- to- market roads could be the solution to the marijuana cultivation problem in this largely agricultural province.
Benguet Police Director Senior Superintendent Florante Camuyot told media persons about the experience in the village of Kayapa, Bakun town, which used to be a largely marijuana- producing village in the Cordillera.
He disclosed that no marijuana planatations are no longer found in Bakun, specially in Kayapa, because of the road constructions and the attention given by the people in the cultivation of highland vegetables and other crops.
Barangay Kayapa was linked to the road system in the mid 2000s, when the provincial government and a private company constructed the road for their hydro power plant project and to make the village accessible.
The road, Camuyot said, brought the community closer to the market, allowing the residents to sell their agricultural produce to other towns and, needless to say, have a source of livelihood.
Kayapa was regularly reported by the police as the village 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, which have few access roads, and where there are still two marijuana- affected villages.
The police, he said, go to Kibungan villages like Badeo and Takadang on a regular basis to destroy marijuana plants. These villages remain 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 holding community relations programs aside from linking with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) about the recommendation to solve the marijuana cultivation.
Badeo and Takadang are the most remote communities of Kibungan, which is in the heart of the Cordillera. 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 was once inaccessible because of the absence of access roads, 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 the banned marijuana leaves in Kayapa, not only because of eradication or the people fearing for their lives because of “Oplan Tokhang”, but because the residents who used to cultivate marijuana plants are now producing the more profitable agricultural crops.
He said the commitment of President Duterte and the Philippine National Police to rid the country of illegal drugs through “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 plantation sites,” he said.
Camuyot stressed that the Kayapa experience showed that the concrete solution to stop marijuana production in the province is the construction of farm- to- market roads.
“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. Otherwise, they will go back to their illegal activities,” he said.
Benguet has a total of 2,401 drug surrenderers including those arrested. Out of the number, there were 480 pushers, 17 of whom are females.
Camuyot said that marijuana cultivators are considered as pushers under RA 9165 or the Anti- illegal Drug Law of 2002. Thom Picana/NPN-northboundasia.com