by Jimmy K. Laking
Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan last week said he would ask the provincial board to enact an ordinance banning the practice of allowing cattle and other animals to stray into the highways where they put motorists and road users at risk.
He said the practice is common along the length of the Benguet-Nueva Viscaya national highway as well as in other road networks in the province.
“The danger they pose is real and unsuspecting road users can lose their lives in the process,” he said, citing as an example the killing of Luna mayor Betty Verzola and her bodyguard in Ilocos Norte last year when her driver lost control of the vehicle after it hit a cow that strayed into the highway.
The governor said the dangers posed by animals are more evident at night when visibility is blurred by fogs, rains and lack of street lights.
“What happens when a driver is cruising at a high speed and not aware of the presence of animals along the road?” he asked.
He said the presence of animals along highways is not normal, aside from the fact that they impede travel or can trigger accidents.
He added the animals are also known to eat or destroy trees and plants that were planted along both sides of the highways to make travel pleasant and as part of a clean and green program by line agencies and local government units.
Investigation showed that some of the cattle are known to use the highways to cross inter-municipal boundaries in search for grass and foliage.
Local officials have long regarded the presence of animals along highways as eyesores aside from posing risks and dangers to motorists and road users.
But lack of a province-wide legislation imposing penalties on animal owners who allow their animals to stray into highways has prevented local government units from impounding the animals or even filing charges against the owners.
The proposed ordinance is seen to put all herds of cattle, carabaos and horses off the road once and for all.