Asia: Philippines Farmers Say No Road, No End to Marijuana Growing 6/3/05

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Farmers in the remote Philippine region of Ifugao have participated in ceremonial marijuana burnings for the past several years as they reluctantly participated in the government's ongoing anti-drug campaign. There was another one May 21, the Manila Bulletin reported, with the Cordillera regional police director personally torching pot plants worth $4 million US as village elders and officials watched.

But those same elders and officials later told the Bulletin they are helpless to stop farmers from intercropping marijuana with corn and other crops because the legal crops cannot make it to market before rotting because there is no road. They added that they are "no longer excited" about participating in eradication programs because the government had failed in its promise to build roads, a promise made by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she presided over a similar burn in the same town in 2002.

While villagers said they were "helpless" to stop marijuana planting now, they insisted their prospects for doing so would much improve if the government would open the road and promote alternative livelihoods for the cash-starved farmers. But they are still waiting for concrete solutions, they said.

The beleaguered pot farmers of Ifugao have found somewhat of a sympathetic ear in their congressman, Rep. Solomon Chungalao. He joined village elders in telling the Bulletin that the police may have their annual raids and burns and print reports of all their accomplishments, but nothing except roads and development will stop the planting. "What can I say," Chungalao said responding to the remarks of the elders, "it is reality. We can only stop marijuana growing if and when we are able to open the road they are asking."

This isn't the first time Chungalao's views on marijuana have made the news in this island nation in the grip of a full-blown drug panic. Last year, conservative politicians and scandal sheets alike were outraged when he convinced Rep. Mickey Arroyo, the president's son, to co-sponsor a medical marijuana bill with him.

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Issue #389 -- 6/3/05

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