BAUKO, Mountain Province – Concerned residents recently rallied religious institutions and cause-oriented groups to initiate the filing of the petition for ‘writ of kalikasan’ over critical portions of the Mount Data Forest Reserve to abate the massive deforestation to establishment vast tracks of vegetable farms that will compromise the supply of water for the communities in the area and downstream communities, including the rivers that it feeds.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the influential individuals involved in the massive conversion of forest lands to vegetable farms, said that significant portions of the 80-hectare supposed untouched forest cover in barangays Monamon Sur and Monamon Norte that are within portions of Mount Kalawitan have already been converted into vegetable farms.
Worst, the source claimed that those allegedly involved in the massive destruction of the ‘virgin forest’ are former barangay and police officials who are in cahoots with influential tribal elders of the indigenous peoples organization that is why they were able to easily and conveniently pursue the cutting of the trees and the establishment of their vegetable farms.
“People of Upper Bauko are now realizing the scarcity of water supply because of the massive conversion of forested areas to vegetable farms while residents of Lower Bauko are now experiencing the deterioration of the water supply, thus, they should not wait for the time to come that water will become a scarce resource in their respective communities,” the source stressed.
Mount Data is the headwater of four major river systems flowing to the lowland communities and providing water supply for domestic, irrigation, agriculture, power generation, industrial and commercial use of the residents in Northern and Central Luzon. The said river systems include the Chico river that flows to the mighty Cagayan river; the Agno River that flows to Pangasinan, Tarlac and the Lingayen Gulf; the Magat River that flows towards Isabela and the Abra river that flows towards the Ilocos provinces.
According to the source, the massive conversion of forest lands by the so-called influential individuals have served as an example for other residents to start willfully cutting trees, flattening mountain slopes and converting the same into commercial vegetable farms to be able to catch up with the high buying prices of highland vegetables in the different trading centers inside and outside the municipality.
The source challenged incumbent barangay and municipal officials, law enforcers and other concerned government agencies to stop the massive conversion of forest lands to vegetable farms because the state of the environment will be greatly compromised aside from the projected scarcity of water supply for the communities resulting to the difficulty of life in the said villages, especially if no drastic action will be taken by responsible citizens who put premium on environmental preservation and protection above anything else.
The source criticized the Kabatangan Ancestral Domain Indigenous Peoples Organization (KADIPO) for allegedly failing to take a clear stand on the matter despite the incidents of massive conversion of forest lands to vegetable farms that has been happening right within their ancestral domain where one of their supposed thrust is to ensure the preservation and protection of the environment so that the identity of Mount Data as the headwaters of major river systems will be maintained up to the future.
The source likened the conversion of forest lands to vegetable farms within portions of the Mount Data watershed to a haircut where the one that is having it prefers a high cut that will surely have a significant impact on the state of the environment and the sustained water supply for various communities in the area.
Further, he warned his fellow residents not to wait for the worst case scenario that will happen similar to what transpired in Cada where almost all of the forest cover was removed to pave the way for the establishment of vast tracks of commercial vegetable gardens thereby compromising the steady supply of water for the residents and other bodies of water in the area.
During the previous administration, former Mayor Abraham B. Akilit initiated the filing of the petition for ‘writ of kalikasan’ over critical portions of the Mount Data watershed but the said noble intention was overtaken by events until the end of his term as the town’s chief executive on June 30, 2022.
The source called on the concerned sectors to pool their resources to ensure the filing of the petition for ‘writ of kalikasan’ the soonest to ensure that the remaining forest cover of the Mount Data watershed will be preserved and protected considering the worsening effects of climate change to humanity. By Dexter A. See