IT’S BEEN almost five years since Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio canceled a memorandum of agreement (MOA) her father, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, entered into with a Manila-based property development company to develop the Sta. Ana wharf area into a mixed residential-commercial and Industrial enclave.
The termination of the agreement was announced by the lady mayor to Reghis M. Romero-led Mega Harbour Port Development Corp. on July 19, 2017, a little over a year since the mayor took over from her father who ran for President of the Philippines and handily won.
In justifying her action of terminating the agreement entered by her father Mayor Sara said: “The decision came after more than a year of careful review and study of the available document and after weighing out the intentions of the project against its commercial viability, legal and social implications, and the project’s possible effects to the environment.”
The mayor added that the decision of her government to “terminate the joint venture agreement is coupled with a resolve that Davao City can really move forward and answer the call of economic growth by implementing highly sustainable projects, both commercially and environmentally.”
Had the project been pursued it was expected to reclaim and develop a total of 200 hectares where a new port sub-city will rise. It was expected to be undertaken through the Public, Private Partnership (PPP) scheme and will be run in a Build-Operate-Transfer system for a fixed period of time. The signing of the MOA was the last major act of Mayor Sara’s father before he assumed the Presidency of the country on June 30, 2016.
We agreed with Mayor Sara’s action especially on her rationale of the city finding a more sustainable project for the area so it will not damage the city’s environment even as it may bring in more acceptable economic activities.
But as we said in this space earlier it has been almost five years since the termination and the promise that a sustainable development project would take the place of the one offered by Mega Harbour. How come the city is still unable to find one such project or announced that some developers have submitted proposals?
Visiting the area subject of the Mega Harbour development proposal easily makes one conclude that the informal settlers have further created new agglomerations of colonies moving forward to the shorelines. Moreover, the professional squatters and speculators have already built residential and even commercial buildings on the site. All these will make any future development proposal even more expensive because the cost of relocation and compensation of the building owners has to be factored in.
We do not know if the construction of the coastal road a stretch of which will pass by the area can be claimed as a substitute project by the city administration. But what is certain is that the coastal road can even draw more interest of informal settlers to stick their claim in whatever space they now occupy in the Sta. Ana port area.
Some two weeks or more ago, there were reports posted in the social media, specifically Facebook, reported on select radio stations, and shared more aggressively by words of mouth that an illegal cockfight or “tigbakay” held in a remote area in Gumalang, Calinan district, was raided by policemen.
No, not only because “tigbakay” is illegal, but because under the pandemic situation, the gathering of many people in an area is strictly prohibited under existing health safety protocols. The risks that anyone caught by the police gambling or just being with the others in the group include not only arrest and imprisonment but also the payment of costly fines.
So, according to reports all those present in the illegal cockfight scampered in various directions. Unfortunately for them, there seemed to be policemen present all around them. Their only way out was to jump to a river nearby which at that time was flooding profusely because of the continuous rains in previous days. But true to their character of being habitual gamblers they gambled with their chances. Many of them jumped into the swollen river in the hope of escaping the raiding policemen.
In succeeding days, there were a few bodies recovered downstream and were believed to be those of some of the attendees in the “tigbakay.” Since the police have no way of identifying the gamblers it was likely that the victims could just have been reported as drowning “statistic.”
There were also those reported as missing through social media and passed on by word of mouth. But again, even if the missing were not really drowned, or they could have survived their watery ordeal, the possibility is that their cases were not reported by their families to the authorities for fear of being traced by the police. Logical move.
Indeed, it is difficult to understand why people continue to ignore lawful orders that will not only prevent further their economic downfall under these very hard times but also prevent their inclusion in the list of criminals or suspects in the police blotters. If it is true that gambling is a habit, then it can be kicked out. The restrictions under the pandemic regime are one opportunity to do such kicking. Who knows? It may become permanent.
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