Rough cuts | Righting the wrong in Marilog

WE take our hat off to the members of the Datu Bago Awards Board of Trustees for their untiring efforts to ensure that some of the descendants of the man who was recently declared hero by the City Council were presented during the awarding ceremonies. The highest award the Davao City government is giving to its outstanding people is named after Datu Bago, Davao’s “paramount warrior” for his brave stand against the Spanish invaders.

We may be wrong, but as far as our recollection is concerned, the Mar. 13, 2018 (Tuesday) conferment of this year’s Datu Bago awards was the first time that the man’s descendants were invited and formally presented to those in attendance.

Yes, the presence of some of Datu Bago’s seventh generation descendants was a major development in the close to half a century of the awards conferment since its inception in 1969 by the late mayor Elias B. Lopez, a Bagobo native.

It is one great feeling to know that the descendants of the great Davao warrior were made to witness a ceremony that carries the name of their long gone great relative whose person is perpetuated in the consciousness of the Davaoenos through the annual awards.

For the descendants being given the chance to witness the conferment rites, without doubt it could be one great honor for them.

Again our congratulations to the Datu Bago Awards Board of Trustees chaired by first district councilor and educator Pilar Braga. She has a great team of devoted persons.

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   Yes, this early (or it’s already late?) the City Government of Davao through the City Council, should use its regulatory powers in the establishment of mountain resorts in the highlands of Marilog.

From word of mouth, we have heard that several moneyed individuals have transformed their occupied select lands in that mountain barangay into commercial resorts catering to urban residents who want to escape the scorching heat in the city proper.

Of course there are those recently completed and long existing resorts that have the needed permits from the city and other government agencies. But City Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre himself appears to have confirmed the existence of some 27 inland resorts operating without permit. His confirmation was made during a media forum last week where he revealed his plan to pass a resolution creating a Task Force Marilog.

The objective of the Task Force is to call all stakeholders in the tourism-related activities in Marilog for them to present their side so that they would be guided accordingly to be law compliant. Alejandre cited some 27 tourism-related establishments in Marilog found by the city’s Business Bureau operating without permit from the local government.

Actually, we believe that the issue being sought to be resolved by the second district councilor is not that shallow as many would like to believe. There are other things that make the issue deeper and even more complicated.

Based on our own previous interactions with people residing in Marilog we learned that most of the land occupations are allowed under certain agreements with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) working supposedly hand-in-hand with the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), especially those areas within the so-called ancestral domain.

But always, the influential and moneyed individuals managed to have their ways. They are the ones who are able to get huge areas under their names through the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA). This DENR program is supposed to insure that whatever remains of the forest is amply protected and managed so that it would remain as it is.

There are also areas in Marilog not covered by the IFMA and the ancestral domain that are granted rights over smaller sizes, say five hectares, to existing occupants on condition that certain portion be retained as forested and the rest for agricultural crops cultivation.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Some of these rights grantees have wantonly sold parts of their rights acquired land, or even the entire area to interested persons who eventually developed their acquisition into some projects other than what the rights grant was intended for.

And probably because of the distance of Marilog from the seat of the local and even national regulators there are those new rights owners or IFMA grantees who have converted their occupation into something that would bring in easy money, even without the necessary permits from the authorities.

Since the problem has been brought to the open, perhaps it is about time that the local government, through the Task Force that might come out of the Alejandre resolution, must religiously impose its authority to regulate the establishment and operation of highland resorts in Marilog. It also imperative that the city must set up an effective coordination process with national agencies that have jurisdiction over the utilization of alienable and disposable government lands so that they work as one and move towards a single direction.

Yes, councilor Alejandre who is City Council Committee Chair on Tourism has one hell of a job right in front of him. But if he succeeds, he’d surely be able to bring in huge revenue to the city treasury considering the boom of the tourism industry in Davao City.

And Marilog’s tourism-related businesses, both operating and still in the planning board, could well make that highland area of the city a top tourism destination. Move even faster councilor.

Posted in Opinion