AUKO, Mountain Province – Mayor Abraham B. Akilit wants concerned government line agencies and the local governments of Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province to pool their resources for the immediate establishment of a multi-use police center and watch tower within the tri-boundary of the three provinces to prevent erring commercial vegetable farmers from ravaging over 300 hectares of remaining virgin forests in the area.
Akilit hailed the combined efforts of the Benguet provincial government, the Benguet provincial police office and the towns of Bokod and Kabayan for putting their acts together in putting up a police center in sitio Babadac, barangay Bashoy to prevent illegal loggers and commercial vegetable farm owners from encroaching into the rich biodiversity of Mount Pulag, the country’s second highest mountain peak at 2,922 meters above sea level.
Mount Data is a mountain located in the Cordillera Central mountain range rising to a height of 2,310 meters (7,578 feet) north of Luzon. It is about 50 kilometers north of Baguio on the borders of the provinces of Benguet and Mountain Province along the Halsema Highway. The mountain and surrounding area has been declared a National Park since 1936. In 1940 the park was expanded to 5512 hectares. The slopes of the mountain are covered with pine forests and mossy oak forests.
“Commercial vegetable farmers from the towns of Buguias and Mankayan, Benguet continuously invade and destroy the forested areas in the tri-boundary of Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao that is why we need all the support from concerned government agencies to stop the disaster in our own midst,”Akilit stressed.
He said people of Bauko were able to control the destruction of the forest in the Mountain Province area through their unity and cooperation to drive away intruders but the unscrupulous commercial vegetable farmers have shifted to the Ifugao side and they have started ravaging the forest in the towns of Tinoc and Hungduan.
“The commercial vegetable farmers use several units of heavy equipment to bar down century-old pine trees and flatten the surface for them to be able to plant more crops, thus, the need for a consolidated effort to put a stop on such illegal activities or else the forest will be gone and people will suffer the consequences of massive landslides, scarcity of water among others,” Akilit said.
Akilit cited tens of hectares of forest are being destroyed by the massive expansion of commercial gardens in the Ifugao side, thus, the immediate establishment of the police center and watch tower will put s stop on the illegal cutting of trees and illegal excavations for the vegetable farms in the said areas.
Akilit pointed out the Mount Data watershed plays a key role in the economic growth of Northern Luzon because it is the headwaters of the Chico, Agno, Abra and Magat rivers providing abundant water supply for agriculture, industrial and domestic uses as well as power generation for the 360-megawatt Magat dam, 125-megawatt Binga dam, 105 Ambuclao dam and the 354-megawatt San Roque dam.
He cited immediate actions of concerned agencies and local governments must be put in place before the last remaining pine stand in the Cordillera will be gone and converted into gardens resulting to scarcity of water for all.by Dexter A. See