Envisioning for sustainable development and progress, Davao City will pursue its P40-billion joint-venture port and coastline development project as a way to boost its economy. However, the apparent issue on the reclamation of the land to be used for the project might be of huge harm to the residents living in the area.
On one hand, the grand development project is expected to create channels for opportunities such as jobs and business ventures in the continuance of its mission of transforming Davao City into a modern and well-planned investment center in Mindanao and the Asia-Pacific region.
Although the project is seen to boost the city’s economy, Michael, a 41 year-old tricycle driver who is one of the affected residents, strongly stood for the rights of the residents about the reclamation issue they are facing.
“Rights naman talaga ang ipinaglalaban namin dito. Kung paaalisin man kami, kailangang may naitayong bahay nang nakahanda. Hindi ‘yung bibigyan lang kami ng pera upang magpatayo ng bahay.” (These are our rights that we are fighting for. If there’s a need to leave, there must be built houses for us. Not that we are just given money to build our own houses.)
The fervor he has within is a clear manifestation of his concern towards the vulnerable residents within the reclaimed area. Where some of them are passive about the issue, people like Michael believed that the affected residents should participate regarding such matters, especially that these are about human rights and people’s lives.
The project will include the reclamation of 214.61 hectares of land, in which 42.92 ha will be allocated for the city government as project owner (inclusive of roads/open spaces) and 171.69 ha for the project developer (inclusive of major thoroughfares) from Sta. Ana port to Brgy. Bucana which will great affect the residences by removing them especially those that are along the coastline and affected zones in the construction of roads and passages.
Additionally, more specific plans were stated in one of the opinion sections of Philstar.com written by Torrevillas, “Mega Harbour will begin with the reclamation of four islands, with the first to be developed as a modern port that ‘will service all kinds of vessels’ with a berthing length of about 2.5 kilometers, which will make it the longest in the Davao Region. The second island will be 39.24 hectares devoted to the central business district and shopping center. The third will be 59.47 hectares for tourist centers and residential resorts; and the fourth, at 40.89 hectares, for township development.”
However, Michael questioned the detailed plan of the developer about the relocation by stressing, “Nakapunta na ako sa city planning office kasi may kakilala akong kapitbahay namin nagtatrabaho doon. Nakita ko ang mapa at plano. Wala namang relocation site na nakalagay doon.” (I went to the city planning office with my neighbor who works there. I’ve seen the map and the plan yet there’s no relocation area illustrated therein.)
The vagueness of the relocation plan made him doubtful of what was stipulated in the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) where the project developer, Mega Harbour, shall provide relocation site for the affected residents at the commencement of the project.
He also added that there was no action of surveying the households yet. Most of the residents only know the surface of the plans but not entirely the concrete ones. They claimed no knowledge of when to prepare for the relocation.
With his solid belief that human rights shouldn’t be compromised, Michael feared the possibilities of broken promises, especially that most of them don’t have the ample voice to force the developer to provide the affected residents a good living condition.
As of now, they just hold trust to the plans the developer has for residents. But the developer, as Michael emphasized, has to communicate with them and must relay the vital information the affected people need.
Goal for development
The grand coastline and port development project aims to promote sustainable growth through arrays of business, industries, and infrastructures in Davao such as the proposed commercial port for better trade and commerce and the tourism complex to incentivize inventors to capitalize in the city.
This is in lieu of the city’s vision of becoming the “Socio-economic and Tourism Center in Mindanao, East Asean Growth Area and the Asia-Pacific Region” which was stipulated in the Joint Venture Agreement.
However, people on the ground are at risks of displacement. Residents surrounding the affected zones still lack the knowledge of the developer’s plan about them. People’s inquiries like when and where will the relocation take place or even when will the project start are still unanswered regarding such matter.
A ‘voice’ of concession
Unlike Micheal, Manong Vher, a Lumad resident of Brgy. 76-A Bucana, Davao City, humbly conceded to the plans the government has for them. Even if he was hesitant at first, the interview went smooth when asked on what are his sentiments and stances about the project.
“Wala na jud mi mabuhat kay public land man ni. Kung pahawaon mi, mutuman nalang jud mi,” he expressed, teary-eyed yet hopeful.
He also shared how long have they lived in those areas, “Sa una pako diri, 1967 pa ug yuta pani tanan. Nagabayad pami ug 10 sentimos sa among asosasyon pampalit sa mga kahoy para sa pagpahimo ug tulay para makaeskwela ang mga bata gikan diri.” (“Since 1967, I already lived here. Before, we just pay 10 centavos to our association to buy lumber to be used in building bridges as passageways of children to school.”)
He also pointed out that people in the community already know that the place is dangerous and anytime, they have to leave.
Manong Vher, with his belief that everything will be all right, hoped for government’s assistance in this matter to secure the future of his family and the entire community including their livelihood.
Hopes don’t die
Despite of the terms agreed which are written in the JVA, people in the community are still apprehensive about the future dilemma they might undergo.
However, affected residents like Manong Vher and Michael still believed that they have rights to consider. A humane relocation must be assured, especially that people in other parts of the country have undergone the terror of demolition and have experienced an inhumane situation in the relocation sites, problems that are unwanted by them.
Over the years, land has been a source of power of the privileged and the kryptonite of the poor – those who have lived in these lands since their birth and have promised to never leave without proper alternative.
Despite all the injustices the marginalized has continued to experience, never have these oppressed people, some of them like Manong Vher and Michael, stopped dreaming of an ideal life in a society where everything is equitable.