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ROUGH CUTS | Was the City Council ignored?

Well, this bit of news is the funniest ever we have read… and heard, of course.

We mean the report that the chair of the Davao City Council Committee on Environment, broadcaster-turned-councilor Temojin “Tek” Ocampo is planning to call the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region XI officials to shed light why a road – concreted at that – is being constructed in the Panigan watershed, a place declared as one of the city’s protected areas.

The road is supposedly a farm-to-market one traversing Purok 7 and Putok 8, in Barangay Carmen, Baguio District. The road construction leads to the cutting of several trees which is prohibited in areas included in a protected zone. For this reason Ocampo also wants to invite the officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) because cutting of trees requires approval from the agency, all the more in protected areas.

Based on Councilor Tek’s statement made during the regular media forum of the AFP-PNP Press Corps last April 17, 2024 it appears that the City Council, or any of its members, does not have any idea that such project contracted at P29.5 million is being implemented in the watershed area.

Meaning, the DPWH, or the DENR has not coordinated with the local government. Therefore it is possible that the project only came to the knowledge of Councilor Tek either through the grapevine or through some concerned villagers who know the prohibitions in a government-declared protected area.
There is no doubt that the road construction is a project of the national government since it is reportedly funded from the General Appropriations Act of Calendar Year 2023. But what seems to puzzle the councilor is why, of all places, the road is constructed leading to a forest where there are no existing communities. He suspects that the construction could have been influenced or at the behest of some vested interest individuals or groups who have acquired sizeable tracts of land in the highlands of Carmen where they could have found sites for potential development into inland resorts. He added that he heard reports that these people and businesses were able to purchase properties in the area even without first acquiring free and prior consent from the indigenous people’s communities.

But again, the question is, how come the councilors, and the city government for that matter seem to be unknowing of the existence of the project? According to the Council Environment Committee chair, he was informed that the road construction is already fifty percent (50%) complete.

With this seeming blank wall among the local lawmakers we could not help but be reminded of our earlier suspicion that most, if not all, or our city councilors have failed to go back to the barangays of their constituents to either thank them or look into the needs of the villages that require local legislative measures to respond.

We might as well recommend to Councilor Tek to also invite during the hearings of his committee, the officials of the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) because the agency may have been advised by the contractor when they started the project. He should also invite the barangay officials because there is certainty that he knows who initiated the project and why his or her gall to go against regulations attendant in the utilization of protected areas.

Of course we hope that when Ocampo’s committee probe finally unearths the personalities that caused the concrete road project “leading to nowhere” he’ll still be able to “bark” with enough decibel and not be cowed into retreating with deafening silence instead.


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