Sunday, 1 July 2012

Images of southern Kalinga

The pictures below were taken from the section of the halsema highway between Lubuagan in Kalinga and Sadanga in Mountain Province. This ribbon of highway runs along the steep mountainsides of the Chico River through many of the villages of Tinglayan municipality,

Driving through the winding mountain roads of Kalinga, one never ceases to be amazed by the magnificent views of the river, the deep valleys, the mountain ranges on either side including 'sleeping beauty', the ricefields, the forests, and other sights found only in this region,
The views of the Chico river and 'sleeping beauty' are incomparable, but time has the habit of running out when you need to stop to take a picture. Next time, I will certainly allow for photo-taking.

The Chico River is at the centre of public dispute over waste dumping and small-scale mining upstream in Mountain Province. The river traverses three provinces (Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Cagayan) on its route before emptying into the south china sea. It is a major irrigation source for rice and agriculture, the main livelihood in these provinces. Its headwaters from the south reach into Benguet and Ifugao, and its irrigation waters stretch as far as Isabela. Activities for leisure and tourism, such as white water rafting on its rapids, now relies on the river’s features . Fishing also occurs throughout the river’s length. So this river may be small, but its reach is quite big.
All that is under threat because of the realisation (only now?) of the presence of trace mercury from small-scale mining. Small scale-mining has been going on for decades upstream in the river and its many tributaries, and is the main source of income for many people in Mountain Province and upper Kalinga. The increase in mining activities has resulted in significant levels of mercury in the river’s waters, and now mounting public concern.
It is feared that unregulated small-scale mining will cause loss of productive agricultural lands and adversely impact tourism.
Presently, there is legal action being mooted under waste management and clean water legislation, to stop dumping of waste into the river. I do not know if any action is being contemplated to regulate small-scale mining. The government should test aquatic creatures for the effects of waste dumping and mining. Perhaps the national government should step in before these issues become a source of friction between the affected provinces. There is enough mandate through the relevant government department to take action regarding waste management and mining.

Bangad was holding its annual town fiesta when we drove past.

Carabaos and pigs are oblivious to the festivities, but they were well represented.

Basao, Tinglayan.

The bridges of Basao country.

All along this mountain highway, the courteous thing to do is to give way, as this Tabuk-bound bus pulls over for another vehicle to go through.

A lookout hut on a hill above.
A closer look at the photo below will show a village on that mountain ridge.

Roadworks are a constant feature on the halsema highway, especially in the summer months.

During this hot and normally dry time of year (February to May), mountains near the provincial boundary of Kalinga and Mountain Province in the south of Tinglayan, are mostly fire-burned (scarred ugly brown) and shorn of significant trees and vegetation.
The yearly large-scale burning (burning-off of whole mountains), a senseless practice that's gone on for way too long, is the main culprit in the slope instability, subsidence and erosion that occurs all along this main transport artery in the Cordillera.
Recently NIA planted forest species and fruit-bearing trees to mark world environment month. I do not know their policy about forest fires. But under their mandate to protect forest watershed areas, NIA should act against offenders as well as assisting to mitigate forest fires during the dry seasons.

The cycle of planting any amount of trees, that end up being burned in a forest fire, will not prevent landslips, erosions and the ugly eye-sores that are the burnt-out mountains.
The sweet sounds of ullalim faintly fade into nothingness,
as we approach the border of Tinglayan with Sadanga.
We're leaving Kalinga in the broad daylight,
but the mountains grow dim...

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