ROUGH CUTS|’Worming’ the upland communities  

SEVERAL columns back, we wrote about the possibility of developing the Paquibato and Marilog highlands into a large plantation of trees that will feed silk worms and will subsequently jumpstart Davao’s silk worm industry.

It is our belief that this development project will get the nod of environmentalist groups that have shown abhorrence to converting these uplands into large palm oil plantation.

Earlier, then Davao City Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte offered the areas to Malaysian investors who have shown willingness to convert the uplands into palm oil plantations as well as put up oil extracting plant right in the plantation areas.

The mayor even wanted to bring into the fold the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as the primary source of manpower for the plantations in addition to the residents of the upland communities.

Immediately upon hearing of the mayor’s plan the environmentalists raised a high decibel of protestations. They claim that palm oil plantations are destructive to the environment and that these will have a major negative effect on the mountain’s top soil. Thus, this will not anymore be suitable to planting of other crops.

The environmentalists were also able to convince then Sangguniang Panlungsod Agriculture Committee chairperson councilor Marissa Abella that palm oil plantations will also affect ground and surface water. As a result, the councilor from the second district also added up in dousing cooled water to the mayor’s plan for the uplands.

The last nail that effectively sealed the proposal inside its coffin was the open disavowal by the NPAs of the project. In fact the rebels were quick to reject the offer as project partners by being the provider of manpower, specifically plantation security.

Then we had the opportunity to read about the successful but wanting in government support silk worm-raising in the Mountain Provinces up north of the country.

This encouraged us to take up in our column the issue where we recommended that in lieu of palm oil plantations, turning the Paquibato and Marilog highlands into a plantation of trees where silk worms could be raised may be an acceptable option to the environmentalists and the rebels.

We do not really know if no one from our government planners was able to read that column item of ours or they just simply ignore ideas not coming from their ranks.

Lately however, we came across a news report quoting an executive of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) saying that the agency is adopting a new approach in developing the island. And this is the so-called Development Corridor Approach.

According to the MinDA official, under this approach Mindanao is to be divided into four corridors and each corridor is assigned certain development schemes in accordance with existing resources in the provinces covered.

Fortunately, in the development corridor that includes Davao City, one of the possible development options that will take advantage of the large upland areas of the city is the raising of silk worms. This, according to the MinDA executive, can be done if the large deforested areas in Paquibato and Marilog be planted massively with the trees that feed the silk worms.

With proper government support in terms of financing and the putting up of facilities for the effective harvesting of silk and weaving them into cloth, we have no doubt that a new industry will evolve and flourish.

And considering that most of those who will be involved are people in the upland communities, this silk worm raising and processing will be one great example of a highly “inclusive development,” a mantra that government has been mouthing ever since.

But is there an agency in government that is in charge of this industry?  We heard there is. The question is how far the services of such office have spanned in the country? We really wonder if there is such unit of whatever department of government in any of its offices in Mindanao.

Of late there had been a lot of national conventions from among organizations as coconut producers, banana planters, builders and subdivision developers, etc. in Davao City.

Why cannot the agency that has under its umbrella the unit that oversees the development of silk worm industry initiate a convention or even just a gathering of those who have gone into silk worm production or those who are looking for new non-traditional investment opportunities.

Perhaps conferences relative to this little known income generating ventures will trigger interest among our moneyed genre from Davao City and perhaps from other areas of the country.

Or, maybe joint ventures with businessmen from China where silk worm raising industry is most progressive.

Posted in Opinion