by Adelle Louise Tined and Faith Katrina Anne Camba
Three out of six mayoral candidates squared off to tackle issues in various sectors concerning the municipality and their plans and programs to solve them during the “Lider ng Bayan: Los Baños Mayoral Candidates Leadership Forum” on Apr. 21.
Present during the forum were Feliciano Aloba Escobin (independent), Joel Mendoza Lapis (Aksyon Demokratiko), and incumbent Mayor, Antonio Laluces Kalaw (independent). Each candidate was given two minutes to answer questions on pressing problems, including the environment and agriculture sectors.
Addressing Forestry Concerns
Los Baños is home to Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, a 4,000 hectare biodiversity hotspot, that has various ecosystems and species. It also serves as a learning laboratory for students. As such, the candidates were asked about issues in the forestry sector and how they plan on solving them.
Lapis, a member of Aksyon Demokratiko, was the first to share his plans for the forestry sector of Los Baños. “Ang nakikitang ko pong malaking problema ay ‘yung sustainability,” he stated.
According to him, there are numerous offices and organizations such as the Department of Environment and National Resources, City Environment and Natural Resources Office, and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources, that can help provide the facility and technology for wide-scale tree planting initiatives. However, he noticed a failure to sustain these tree-planting efforts.
“At ang nakakalungkot pang isipin ay nababalewala po ang ating kalikasan kapalit ng mga industrialization,” he added. He then proposed to connect people and organizations to further enhance and strengthen the city’s natural resources.
FOCUSING ON FORESTRY: Candidates lay down their plans to improve the forestry sector.
On the other hand, Kalaw believes that the forestry sector’s biggest problem is preservation. He stated that there is obstruction and destruction of mountains. Moreover, he said that illegal settlers who continue to expand in certain areas are also a problem.
As a solution, Kalaw plans to protect forestry reserves by encouraging citizens to plant and care for trees. He believes that preserving Los Baños’ forests is important because it holds one’s life and needs.
Escobin, emphasized the lack of compliance with the law. To resolve this, he plans to pass a City Ordinance to strengthen and protect existing forestry laws. He also mentioned bringing back the Green Revolution program, which was active during the Marcos administration. Escobin believes the citizens should take the initiative in complying with the existing forestry laws.
Preserving the Biodiversity of Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve
A Facebook Live viewer asked about their opinion regarding Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve and their possible contributions to maintaining its conservation.
Kalaw believes that Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve is beneficial in protecting citizens from the risk of landslides. He plans on contributing to the conservation of Mt. Makiling by planting more trees, stopping tree cutting, and lessening the number of illegal settlers by providing them land assistance.
On the other hand, Escobin plans on fighting for the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve. He urges people to respect the forest and comply with UPLB’s laws in forest conservation. He also pleads for people to avoid settling on the mountain and building factories around it.
And Lapis believed that natural resources are simply borrowed from the next generations. He stated that the current generation must preserve and conserve natural resources so that they will last for generations to come. He urges citizens, agencies, people’s organizations, and experts from and outside UPLB to work together in caring for the environment.
Lapis also stated that through the stewardship of the environment, its advantages could be maximized – providing the citizens with more livelihood opportunities.
Advancing the Welfare of the Agriculture Sector
Aside from forest concerns, one Facebook viewer also asked the candidates what they think are the challenges of the agricultural sector of Los Baños and how they plan on solving them.
Escobin plans on collaborating with experts to improve the agriculture sector of Los Baños. “Bago po ako kumilos nandiyan po ang UP. Sila yung mga experts sa ganyan and I will respect the expertise of UP. Whatever comes up with me and UP or the University of the Philippines i-pupush ko po ‘yan,” he stated. Escobin also pushes to educate people on the agriculture sector.
Lapis said “Ang nakikita ko problema ay wala po tayong sapat na lupa”. His solution is to encourage every household to participate in backyard or organic farming. He also plans to tap experts to make agriculture more sustainable.
Lapis also mentions giving livestock farmers capital and technical support. He added that there should also be insurance assistance and calamity support both from the government and the private sector.
Kalaw explains that the problem with Los Baños’ agricultural sector is that it’s not self-sufficient. During his term, the city of Los Baños imported rice from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. He stated that there was more focus on the city rather than the farmlands.
Kalaw also wanted to address Los Baños’ lack of farming lands, to which he proposed to borrow lands from land owners, stating, “Kumbinsihin po natin ang ibang may lupa na nakatiwangwang na pwede naman natin pagtaniman.”
The event is organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños together with The College of Human Ecology and the School of Environmental Science and Management for the UPLB sa Halalan 2022.
The forum can be re-watched on UPLB’s Facebook Page.