Bukidnon town offers site if Noynoy opens “Malacañang in Mindanao”

Inset Map Courtesy of WikipediaMALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews/28 June) —  The municipal government of Lantapan has asked President-elect Benigno Aquino III to open an extension of  Malacañang Palace in Mindanao within a protected area in their town.

Lantapan vice mayor Ernie Devibar told MindaNews Monday that municipal officials proposed the extension of the Office of the President in Lantapan,  in a resolution passed this month. The resolution was sent through Quezon Rep.Wigberto Tañada III last week.

The Liberal Party spokesperson was the guest of honor at the town’s 42nd foundation anniversary celebration on June 18.

Devibar said they wanted to invite the President-elect but he had become too busy so they opted for Valenzuela councilor Shalani Soledad. Aquino’s reported girlfriend confirmed attendance but later begged-off  when she fell ill from a trip to China.

The Lantapan municipal council presented the proposal with a separate resolution for Aquino to include in his infrastructure priorities the 25-kilometer road connecting the town’s agriculture-rich upland villages to Malaybalay City.

He said there is a need for Aquino to put an extension of  his office in Mindanao.

Fidel Ramos set up a Malacanang of the South in Davao City a week after his inauguration as President in 1992. He appointed businessman Paul Dominguez as Presidential Assistant. Dominguez served the post until January 31, 1998 as he was then supporting the presidential bid of  former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa. Jesus Dureza took over Dominguez’ post but the successor-President, Joseph Estrada, abolished the Office of the Presidential Assistant in Mindanao (OPAMIN) and changed this into PARECOs (Presidential Assistant for Regional Concerns).

Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo re-established the post of Presidential Assistant for Mindanao and named Dureza to again be the PA for Mindanao.

There is no announcement as yet that President-elect Aquino will appoint a PA for Mindanao or set up an Office of the President in Mindanao.

Lantapan’s officials are proposing that an extension office  be put up within the 2,000-hectare cinchona-protected area in Kaatoan village in Mt. Kitanglad’s buffer zone bordering Lantapan.

Devibar said Bukidnon is at the heart of Mindanao and Lantapan is in the middle of the province. Lantapan is best known for its upland banana plantations, with a rolling terrain nestled  between two natural parks, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan.

But he clarified that it won’t be easy to push for the proposal. “It might take years, even 15 years,” he added.

The office of Felix Mirasol, the Kitanglad Protected Area Superintendent, said Lantapan’s municipal officials did not coordinate with the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) on their plans.

“They haven’t mentioned that but our plan for Cinchona is for eco-tourism,” Mirasol said in a text message Monday afternoon.

But he said if officials are pushing for an extension office, this has to be consulted with the PAMB.

Out of Bukidnon’s 20 towns and two cities, Aquino won only in Lantapan town.

Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. did not support Aquino in the May 2010 polls. He threw his support behind Nacionalista Party’s Manny Villar after dumping the administration bet Gilbert Teodoro.

But Bukidnons went for President Joseph Estrada who got 39.4 percent of its 550,098 voters on May 10. Aquino came in second with 31 percent of the votes.

Estrada won in 17 towns and in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia. Villar, despite Zubiri’s shift of support won only in two, Kadingilan and Kitaotao. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)