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Northern Luzon voters are most concerned about protecting farmers and the environment

Northern Luzon voters are most concerned about protecting farmers and the environment

Protection of farmers, environment top concerns of Northern Luzon voters

AT RISK Fishermen in Binmaley (Pangasinan province) sort out fish from Lingayen Gulf in the photo taken on January 30. Villagers fear that a black sand mining project in the gulf could affect their livelihood.WILLIE LOMIBAO

(First of a series).

Northern Luzon, which includes 15 provinces in the three regions Ilocos Valley, Cagayan Valley, and Cordillera, accounted for more than 6.9 millions votes in the May elections.

These provinces are home to fertile lands, which provide major markets for vegetables and rice, as well as rich fishing areas that provide food for coastal communities. The Northern Luzons forests, from the Cordilleras through the Caraballo Mountains to Sierra Madreare, provide green areas for Luzon’s remaining green areas. They also house the headwaters of the great rivers of the islands where clean energy can be derived.

The northern indigenous people communities are the preservers of a unique heritage. These regions make for attractive ecotourism destinations and cultural destinations for those who want to learn more about the country’s history.

Northern Luzon has also been affected by natural disasters, particularly in Cagayan Valley where provinces have been continuously ravaged by strong typhoons as well as widespread flooding in recent decades.

What are voters looking for in candidates for elective positions on May 9th, given this backdrop?

Voters in the Cordillera, a predominantly agricultural region, hope that candidates can offer a viable and long-term solution for the unabated smuggling.

Benguet vegetable traders are calling for the revival of a taskforce to combat vegetable smuggling in spite of the lackluster response from government agencies.

Agot Balanoy spokeswoman for the League of Associations of the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post and said that this multisectoral taskforce was the only hope they had to save the ailing sector and the struggling farmers.

Republic Act No. The Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act (Republic Act No.

CASH CROP A farmer dries tobacco leaves on the slope of a dike road at Barangay Gualsic in Alcala, Pangasinan, in this photo taken in March. Tobacco farming is one of the major cash crops in the Ilocos region. WILLIE LOMIBAO

CASH CROP A farmer dry tobacco leaves on the slopes of a dike road in Alcala, Pangasinan in this March photo. Tobacco farming is one the most important cash crops in the Ilocos. WILLIE LOMIBAO

Balanoy claimed that the situation of vegetable smuggling had worsened six-years after it was first enacted. Balanoy said that while smuggling used to take place at night, it now happens in broad daylight.

Balanoy stated in a text message that April 7 that smuggling is still a major election issue. He said that the next elected leaders must have the political will to end smuggling, and help local farmers.

Overdevelopment

Baguio City candidates have chosen to campaign on issues of overdevelopment, which is exacerbated by insufficient resources like water and waste management.

A COVID-19 survivor and Baguio doctor asks them to concentrate on environmental measures that would reduce, or eliminate, future diseases caused by human intrusion in plant and wildlife habitats, especially in Baguio, Benguet, and Cordillera forests.

Dr. Elizabeth Macliing Solang of the City Health Department was the first to be diagnosed with COVID-19. She cited scientific evidence that links recent pandemics to urbanization and economic development as well as a shift in society towards environmental apathy.

She stated that habitat destruction increases our contact with wildlife and disrupts the natural equilibrium in ways that can fuel pandemics. She was speaking from a speech she gave during the International Womens Month.

Baguio had been declared a safe-haven for activism by a religious leader. This issue should be considered an election issue.

TRADERS HUB Workers at the vegetable trading post in La Trinidad, Benguet, unload vegetables coming from other areas in the Cordillera in this April 3 photo. Local farmers continue to fight the unabated vegetable smuggling in the country. ALLAN MACATUNO

TRADERS HUB Workers unload vegetables from other Cordillera areas at the vegetable trading station in La Trinidad, Benguet in this April 3 photo. Local farmers continue to fight the vegetable smuggling. ALLAN MACATUNO

Reuel Norman Marigza, Bishop of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, said: In a democracy the interplay of those that govern and those who oppose it is essential. We should choose candidates who respect freedom of expression and dissent and are not threatened or intimidated by activism.

Agri, blacksand mining

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, Pangasinan, stated that candidates must concentrate on agriculture, which is also a major industry in the province.

President of Sinag Rosendo So said that farmers are being forced to spend P74,000 to plant and harvest a 1-hectare rice or corn plantation because of the skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer prices. Diesel is used by farmers to power water pumps and other farm equipment.

We have been asking the government for at least three months to suspend the 12-percent VAT and fuel excise.

Pangasinan residents face other major problems than agriculture. This is because black sand mining is taking place in Lingayen Gulf. This water body is already critically important for its environment.

According to the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute(UP MSI), the project will extract 25,000,000 metric tons of black sand and displace close to 50,000 people whose livelihood is dependent on the gulf.

The UP MSI has been opposed to the project since November last year. They claim that Pangasinan is at serious risk of irreversible damage if seabed is disturbed. UP MSI has a marine science laboratory at Bolinao, Pangasinan.

According to the UP MSI project would only serve the short term interests of those who will benefit from a misguided and dangerous development that threatens the existence of Pangasinan, La Union.

What office is it and who are the candidates against it? [black sand]What are their plans for action to save Lingayen Gulf and mining? Irene de Vera is a professor at Pangasinan State University Binmaley.

Tobacco industry

Tobacco farmers in the Ilocos Provinces want candidates to improve their quality of life.

Bernard Vicente, the chair of National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Association and Cooperatives says that Ilocos Sur’s farmers have been growing tobacco to make ends meet.

Vicente in Ilocano said that he believes it is time for them to listen to our pleas and help us improve our lives.

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Vicente said that the government gets about P1.25million tax per hectare of Virginia tobacco-bearing land.

He lamented that the plight and contribution of tobacco farmers to the region’s economy is constantly overlooked.

Vicentes’ group is asking local officials to find alternative income sources that would allow them earn instead of sitting idle while they wait for their tobacco yield, which usually lasts six months.

PERENNIAL WOE Roads, streets and homes in Tuguegarao City are submerged at the height of the severe flooding that hit Cagayan province on Nov. 14, 2020. DAVID TE/Contributor

PERENNIAL WOE Streets, homes and roads in Tuguegarao City have been submerged by the severe flooding of Cagayan on Nov. 14, 2020. DAVID TE/Contributor

Vicente said that these alternative sources would allow the province’s tobacco farmers to be independent when the World Health Organizations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is signed by the Philippines, is fully realized.

He stated that the framework is intended to reduce harmful tobacco consumption in signatory nations, which could affect their demand or production of tobacco.

Alyansa ti Mannalon ti Ilocos Norte leader Genaro di la Cruz believes that farmers should have access to local government programs that offer alternative sources of income. He said that we must organize, educate, and present to them other viable economic opportunities than what they have been dependent on.

Response to disasters

The Cagayan Valley region has seen torrential rains and typhoons in the rainy season that have caused severe flooding. This is especially true in Isabela and Cagayan provinces.

Officials from the local government described the flooding as the worst in 40 years. It affected at most 151,600 families in Cagayan, Isabela, and claimed 24 lives.

Residents of these areas hoped candidates would offer solutions to the pervasive disaster. Local officials admitted that environmental damage had exacerbated the situation.

Residents of Batanes in the northernmost province expressed hope that future officials will prioritize their community over their personal desires.

Because of the island’s geographic location, we are at a high risk for natural disasters. [that]Chairmaine Gato is a government employee in Itbayat.

She said that it is only during disasters that people can see the quality leaders they elect.

REPORTS FROM KIMBERLIE QUITASOL. VINCENT CABREZA. YOLANDA SOTELO. JOHN MICHAEL MOUGAS. VILLAMOR VISAYA JR. NATHAN ALCANTARAINQ

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