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Reflections |Significance of Being Datu Bago Awardee

By Norma T. Javellana

Datu Bago Awardee 2018

(Presented during the General Assembly of the Datu Bago Awardees Organization, August 30, 2023)

I was a recipient of the Datu Bago Award in 2018 as one of seven awardees. Three of us were recognised as advocates for caring for our environment, especially for having more publicly accessible green spaces in the city. These two co-awardees in 2018, Brother Karl Gaspar and Mr. Ricardo Obenza, continue to be active advocates for many causes even though we are all senior citizens and in our seventies.

To my mind 2018 was a very special year. It was the year that the IPCC or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released its sobering report about Mother Earth. It said that we have only 12 years left to be successful in our fight against global warming and climate change. It means that to stop or deal with global warming we must be effective before 2030. It means that we have to halt deforestation by 2030 and at the same time engage massively in tree planting and growing.

Luckily this is also a goal supported and renewed by our Philippine government panel in 2021 when more than 140 nations met in Glasgow during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. For us here in Davao a major challenge is to maintain and enhance the tree cover in Mount Apo and upland districts like Marilog where deforestation has been increasing.

Indeed a very big challenge.So thank you, Datu Bago Awardees Organization, for giving increasingly more attention to the care for the environment in 2018 and beyond.

Becoming a Datu Bago Awardee has also helped me to make more people aware of and interested in our centrally located Davao Shrine Hills that are our green lungs of the city. Part of Davao Shrine Hills, more than 222 hectares, has been declared as Urban Ecological Enhancement SubZone to be kept green at all times. There is still a long way to go to make this happen, but I actively participate in the consultative mechanisms with the city to make it a reality. For this the Datu Bago Award has been very helpful.

My recognition as Datu Bago Awardee also contributed to greater awareness of the Panigan-Tamugan watershed, a cause which I have been promoting since 2004. This watershed in Baguio District is almost 14,000 hectares and is being tapped as the source of river surface water for around 120 barangays in the city. Tapping the Panigan and Tamugan rivers will make it possible that we can reduce our reliance on deep wells and aquifers which are the source of most of our drinking water. The deep wells and aquifers need to rest and need to replenish or they will run dry. We must all be concerned to keep the Panigan-Tamugan watershed clean and green and with plenty of trees so that the water keeps on flowing. There is still a lot to be accomplished here because 5,000 hectares of the 14,000 hectares are denuded and need to be reforested.

The Datu Bago award has also been helpful and instrumental in pushing the rights of children, especially in marginalized communities that need green public space. There is plenty still to be done here.

I am also happy that because of my recognition as Datu Bago Awardee, some people and communities and organizations have approached me for help and advice and in order to support their advocacies. No advocacy can be carried by only one person so common, collective efforts are very important.

Being conferred the Datu Bago award has also made me braver and more assertive to push my advocacies, which after all are for the greater good of all citizens. It has made me more determined to participate in governance as an active citizen of Davao City, to promote the common good, and to keep the government true to its mandate.


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