ROUGH CUTS| The people deserve to know

IT’S ALMOST July, or roughly two years and three months since the disastrous fire leveled off thousands of houses at Isla Verde along Quezon Boulevard, Davao City.

The fire gutted so huge an area that by the time it was over, any bystander positioning himself at the Magsaysay Park can see the massive space left vacant up to the boundaries of the neighboring barangays along Quezon Boulevard.

The cost of devastation and the subsequent provision of relief assistance to the victims of the fire sent city hall skimping on available resources just to respond to the immediate needs of the displaced families.

Based on the actions taken by the city officials in the days following the fire, we assumed that the local government executives wanted that never again will they allow the area to be vulnerable to fire that it used to be.

Thus, the city through the now outgoing mayor and incoming President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, created a task force to craft a new development plan for the fire-ravaged area. One of the first steps adopted was to restrain the fire victims from rebuilding their houses where they used to be.

In other words, it was mandated by the city that the fire victims remain where they relocate temporarily while the local government was exploring ways on how to develop the fire-ravaged area.

Meanwhile, the task force created by the mayor seemed to be deep in their thoughts in coming out with a development scheme that it will recommend for adoption.

Apparently, the task force seems hard put in coming out with a plan. Of course, we can understand considering certain restrictions on the use of the Isla Verde and adjoining areas. Then President Joseph Estrada has issued a proclamation making the said place solely for residential purpose and no others.

In the interregnum though, there were pronouncements by the city mayor that a Malaysian property developer has offered to develop the place converting it into a mixed residential-commercial and light industrial enclave.

That proposal, to us, was one complete package for the most desired sustainable development process. The commercial-industrial infrastructures are to provide the fire victims with job opportunities while the residential buildings is to offer them new homes right in the area that they used to live.

Of course, the Malaysian proposal has to contend with the biggest hurdle – the Estrada presidential proclamation.

Following the disclosure of the Malaysian property developer’s intention however, a deafening silence followed.

The task force has not made any new statement as to the status of the development plan the mayor asked it to craft. And city hall has so far not updated the public on the Malaysian proposal.

Meanwhile, we are already seeing new housing structures rising in the fire-hit area. And it is clear the victims themselves are doing the construction their own way.

So, what else can we expect but the area going back to its old fire-prone configuration.

Can we be blamed for entertaining the idea that while Mayor Duterte was very busy with his advocacy for federalism and his eventual run and campaign for the presidency some of his trusted men are also sleeping on their job?

Now there is this Sta. Ana Port Development Project which is now approved by the city council and is just awaiting for the outgoing mayor’s formal approval. It is a P39 billion ambitious project the scope of which without doubt will include the burnt Isla Verde area.

How should this be reckoned with the development plan asked by the mayor to be crafted by the special task force he created for the development of the burnt Isla Verde area?

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All presidents since the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos vow to end the communist insurgency.

President Corazon Aquino, who succeeded Marcos, appeared to be well on her way towards ending the ideology-inspired rebellion. However, after releasing the insurgents’ top leaders including Jose Ma. Sison from prison, she appeared to have given in to her military-dominated advisers, her backbone in protecting her administration from coup attempts. The peace talks with the communist rebels went phffft.

Her successor President Fidel V. Ramos also made some good inroads with the negotiations. But like the feat of her predecessor the peace talks also went kaput. The next two presidents haven’t gone beyond saying that they are keeping the doors open for a new peace talks with the Reds.

There was high optimism when the outgoing President Benigno Aquino III assumed power in 2010. But according to the highest ranking communist rebel, the Aquino administration virtually abandoned all initial efforts in going back to the negotiating table, a claim strongly denied by the Aquino government.

With the incoming Duterte administration however, hope is turning into a positive reality. Already, weeks before Duterte’s formal assumption to office, the interim peace panel has already met with the Netherlands-based ranking communist rebels. They have agreed on the general talking points. What are set to be ironed out upon Duterte’s assumption are the details of all the issues that the negotiating panels of both the government and the rebels will be tackling in the formal talks.

Indeed, under the next dispensation, a lasting peace with the decades old communist rebellion appears to be achievable. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Posted in Opinion