ROUGH CUTS| A year-end of tragedies and a big surprise

YES indeed, towards the end of 2017 Davao City was well on its way to the pinnacle of what could be another banner year. What with all the influx of developments brought about by the political fortune of one of the city’s sons former mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte. The former city chief executive was elected President of the Philippines in 2016 with such an enormous majority of more than six million votes to his closest rival. That feat was never expected considering the very limited exposure of the Davao City mayor compared to his more illustrious adversaries. But as fate would have it, he became President and with it Davao City came to the vortex of national, and even international consciousness – politically and economically.

With the assumption to the Presidency of Davao’s native son and of course the built-in resources of the city that became even more enticing with a Davaoeno President, also came an avalanche of actual investments and those in the pipelines. Of course with this promising economic outlook the local and national governments made sure that there were reciprocal efforts to have the city ready for the wave of investors coming in.

Thus, it is already common to Davaoenos moving around the city’s urban and suburban areas to see road expansion projects, opening of new by-pass and farm-to-market roads, a coastal highway, and more bridges even in rural areas.

In other words, the last six months of 2016 and the entire 2017 saw both a Davao City in bloom and in boom.

Yes, with a Davaoeno President the city started its climb to a full bloom, and that bloom was like flowers drawing local, national and global economic bees to explore the city’s potentials.

But as they say any march to progress is not always laid with smooth routes. There are sections where thorns are strewn and these become the “spoilers” of the journey towards development.

Sadly, in the case of Davao City, the “spoilers” of its full development potentials came towards the end of this year. And it came at the very time when people were supposed to be at its peak of enjoying the universally anticipated season of happiness – Christmas and the New Year. And perhaps more ironically, these development “spoilers” were both caused by men and nature.

If Davaoenos can still recall, during the months of October and November this year, there were several fire incidents that hit heavily populated and some commercial sectors of the city. Damage was huge.

And then in early December fire hit a portion of Times beach that is now considered one of Davao City’s informal settlers’ haven. Then there was that huge fire in a section of Bankerohan a few meters away from Davao City’s main public market. Some 100 families lost their houses and several informal fish and vegetable stalls were leveled to the ground.

Then, on December 23, the gigantic and perhaps the most disastrous fire incident hit a huge home-grown mall in Davao City – the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) in the Ma-a Road-MacArthur junction.

The fire started on the third floor, according to initial investigations conducted by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) trapping several employees of a Call Center company on the fourth level of the building.

As of this writing there were already a total of 37 people confirmed dead as a result of that incident. And we have no doubt that the impact of the mall fire would not end as soon as the last dead victim is buried. It will have an eternally gnawing effect on the lives of the loved ones left behind by the victims. The “lesser” victims, the employees of the mall, will also lose their jobs. Perhaps to some it may be temporary since the likelihood is that the regular workers will be re-assigned to the soon-to-be-opened branches of the mall within and outside of Davao City.

As to the owners of the mall, well, every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that the establishments and its merchandise are insured by international insurers. So, it would just be a matter of time and the owners will be building perhaps a grander and much bigger mall than the one that was burned.

These fire incidents, you may believe us or not, are definitely caused by men either due to their recklessness or their desire to put one over the regulators in order to pay smaller amount in the procurement of building and electrical permits as well as skirt other government requirements.

Meanwhile, nature seemed to have taken its revenge against men when during the months earlier mentioned in this treatise, unusually heavy rains loosened the base of Shrine Hills along the C.P. Garcia Diversion Road. During said period several landslides blocked the highway causing tremendous vehicular traffic on the major access road to the city from the south. The local government had to implement forced evacuations of residents who built their houses on the slope of the hills and right on the other side of the highway on the landslide prone portion.

And as if nature was not through with its exaction of revenge against its nemesis – the environment destroyers, a typhoon of substantial strength hit the peripheries of Davao City like the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur and Occidental less than a week before the 2017 Christmas Day.

But perhaps God still maintains compassion for the Davaoenos and their city. He did not include the city in the path of typhoon Vinta’s sledge hammer thrust. But still the city was unable to escape the wrath of the rainwater that was poured in Bukidnon causing Davao River to overflow on the plains directly where its water appears to have claimed original “right of way” but “stolen” by the influx of development.

Flood sank several residential villages in Tigatto, at Jade Valley, in Maa, in Pag-asa area in Bakerohan, and in some other low-lying areas along the city’s main waterway. There were other areas of the city which were also flooded but not as vastly damaged as those along Davao River.

As of the time that this column goes to the press there was still no clear estimate as to the cost of damage the flood has brought about.

Somehow, however, the sadness of the tragedies that befall Davao City and its people was suddenly “sidelined” although only temporarily, when right on Christmas day news broke out that Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte announced his resignation from the second highest post of the local government.

VM Pulong’s announcement came like a blast of thunder to the people of the city because it was not expected from him. Of course he mentioned the “immediate” cause of his resignation. And that is his sense of “delicadeza” after his daughter Isabelle with first wife Lovely, splashed to national consciousness, rather controversially, with her photo shoots inside Malacanang displaying her various debutant’s dresses. That display of the Vice Mayor’s daughter and Presidential granddaughter was lambasted by administration critics both in the mainstream and social media. The criticism was short of saying it was a display of an Imeldefic opulence.

Perhaps VM Pulong felt that the bashing his President father got from the people who did not approve of Isabelle’s using of certain sections of Malacanang’s walls as photo background was already too much to bear. Davao City’s second highest official might have thought that such act was not helping his father who has always been known for frugality in his ways in life. Thus, VM Pulong could not have found any other way to help his father get back his character of simplicity except to quit his post.

Of course, it was not yet clear as of Monday whether the verbal announcement has already been made formal with a written one complete with irrevocability clause, and the same document submitted to the proper authority.

The people of Davao City are waiting with some degree of guarded apprehension.

Posted in Opinion