Davao City VM on opposition to oil palm project: ‘Why only now?’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 June) – Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte lashed back at critics of the proposed oil palm project in Paquibato District, saying they said nothing when the local government was soliciting suggestions to address poverty in the area.

“For so many years, the local government has been trying to solve the problem of insurgency and poverty in some areas of Paquibato District. I support the suggestion of the mayor to put up a palm oil plantation because I think this brings about a win-win solution to the problem,” Duterte said in a statement.

The vice mayor is the son of the mayor, Rodrigo Duterte.

The younger Duterte said Jean Lindo, co-chair of Panalipdan Southern Mindanao which has voiced opposition to the project, did not say anything when the local government was looking for solutions in the area.

“During the time when the government was thinking of solutions on the Paquibato problem, they were silent. Now [that] there’s a possible remedy, the ‘geniuses’ suddenly open their mouths,” he said.

The vice mayor defended the city council’s support for the project, saying the body “represents the voices of the people of Davao.” He said the lawmakers would not approve any proposal that will cause damage to the government.

Aside from farming opportunities for the residents of Paquibato, the project would also lead to more benefits such as social security, as well as the creation of a profit-sharing scheme to ensure that the farmers and owners will get their fair share of the profits generated by their land, he said.

“If the oppositors of this project have a better idea for Paquibato, the doors of the Sangguniang are wide open for you to come in and explain your proposition,” he added.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said earlier this week that those opposed to the project should suggest alternatives if they think having an oil palm project was bad for the area.

He said Malaysian and Thai companies are eyeing large tracts of land in both Paquibato and Marilog districts as plantations for the crop.

“(We) urge the Local Government of Davao City to look also at the perils of foreign corporate-controlled palm oil plantations based on people’s experiences and not only the companies’ mere promises of economic development,” Panalipdan said in a statement.

The environment group said the proposed oil palm plantations in the area threaten the status of Paquibato as an important water resource area.

Paquibato District covers 66,242.52 hectares or 27 percent of the city’s total area of 244,000 hectares, according to the Comprehensive Land Use Program of the city.

Comprising 13 barangays, the area is largely undeveloped due to lack of access roads and government service.

The city has designated Marilog and Paquibato as areas for all community-based agro-forestry development programs and upland agricultural development, according to the CLUP.

The district is also wracked by insurgency and has been the scenes of several encounters between government forces and the communist-led New People’s Army.

Last week, the city government, along with the military, declared the area “insurgency-free,” with Duterte inviting members of the rebel group to be part of its development through the oil palm project. (MindaNews)