March 5, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

One of the possible solutions to curb the continued cultivation of marijuana in the hinterlands of the Cordillera is the construction of more farm-to-market roads (FMRs).

 Police Regional Office-Cordillera Director B/Gen. David Peredo, Jr. said along with the road construction would be to encourage the communities to plant vegetables instead of the illegal plant.

 Peredo cited the case of Ifugao, where farm-to-market roads were constructed in areas going to identified marijuana planting sites. This encouraged the community to plant highland vegetables instead, since the road already reached the otherwise far-flung areas.

 He said for Tinglayan, Kalinga, there is an earlier proposal for the construction of FMRs and livelihood projects as a way to discourage individuals from planting marijuana.

 The proposal was submitted by the provincial government of Kalinga and the municipality of Tinglayan, which was forwarded to the Dangerous Drugs Board for possible funding.    

 “The challenge for the project is on how to implement it, especially because those residents affected by the project do not want their properties to be expropriated,” Peredo said.

 The FMR, he said, is a short-term solution as compared to the legalization of marijuana to allow its cultivation but impose stricter regulation.

 PRO-Cor reported a total of P4.6 billion worth of marijuana and shabu confiscated in the region in 2023.

 During the course of marijuana eradication operations last year, only one cultivator was arrested in Mountain Province.

 Peredo said most of the suspects choose to plant marijuana in common lands such as communal forests, which is far from residential areas.

PRO-Cor and other law enforcement agencies and the different communities are strengthening strategies on how to arrest cultivators during anti-marijuana eradication operations.