Federalism prevents diaspora of rural people to urban centers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Feb) – A shift to federalism may prevent the diaspora of people from the rural areas into the urban centers like Metro Davao, an official of Davao City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) said.

Noraisa Casan, 29, attends to her sari-sari store that transforms into the family’s home by night. MindaNews photo by Antonio L. Colina IV

CPDO head Ivan Cortez told MindaNews on Monday that the federal form of government will promote economic development in areas outside of the urban centers and may prevent the rapid growth of population due to the increasing number of urban migrants in cities.

He said that the local government units (LGUs) will get a bigger budget share that can be allocated for growth and development programs.

“We want to spread the economic growth outside of Davao City. This will always provide a good social impact to the city when we spread out the economic advancement to the entire Davao Region,” he said.

Cortez, former head of the Davao City Investment Promotions Center (DCIPC) from 2013 to 2016 under then mayor and now President Rodrigo R. Duterte, said that he made it a point to share the city’s best practices in terms of attracting investors that would provide opportunities for people in neighboring areas.

He said the non-exclusive and non-reclusive behavior of the city towards urban migrants will eventually put a strain to the development of the city with more social problems arising from overpopulation.

“If we will be very exclusive and reclusive in terms of our expertise, our best practices, time will come that the city will drown in terms of accommodating those who are migrating to the city,” he said.

Based on the June 6, 2016 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 11, the city’s population reached 1.633 million as of August 1, 2015, the highest among the region’s five provinces – Davao del Norte (1.016 million), Davao del Sur (633,000), Davao Occidental (316,000), Davao Oriental (559,000), Compostela Valley (736,000) – and one chartered city (Davao City).

The city also reported the highest annual population growth rate of 2.30 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the PSA 11 report.

Boats line the shore at Brgy. 23-C, Poblacion District, Davao City. MindaNews photo by Antonio L. Colina IV

Cortez said that more than 50 percent of the city’s population are migrants.

Last February 7, Allen Clark, a senior fellow at the East West Center Research Program, told Filipino journalists participating in the US-Philippines Relations Reporting Tour in Honolulu, Hawaii that most of cities in the Philippines lack an urban development policy that, when coupled with climate change, and explosive population growth, would result in disastrous impact on the economy and poor urban migrants during calamities.

“If you combine climate change and urbanization process and this increasingly marginalization of large group of people, future disasters are going to be much larger and much more severe than we’ve seen before,” he said.

Amend CLUP

Cortez added that the CPDO is planning to lobby amendments in the 2013 Comprehensive Land-Use Plan (CLUP) by introducing more institutional areas in rural settlement areas (RSAs) in the city.

Institutional areas are intended for schools, banks, churches, government offices, and other purposes aside from commercial, he said.

“Not much attention was given to the institutional areas like places for churches, schools. They are not so integrated into our urban area,” he said. “In downtown areas, the challenge is where will we put out institutional areas and also our need for parks and open spaces,” he said.

But Cortez said that the vacant spaces downtown must not be developed for commercial purposes.

“What we need to do now with our vacant spaces downtown is to reclassify these for other purposes other than commercial. The concern in the downtown area is that businessmen want this to be developed into commercial because that’s where the money is, but you have to strike a balance somewhere because you need open spaces, you need institutional spaces for a healthy living,” he said,

He said that it is necessary to identify the rural settlement areas since more than half of the city’s 182 barangays are classified as sub-urban.

Ghangy Jumadil and wife Zoraidain their house on stilts by the sea. MindaNews photo by Antonio L. Colina IV

“We can’t define a city based on the number of buildings. We really need to have a sustainable city where we have parks and places for people to grow and cultivate their potentials. We need churches, schools, and other institutions that will enhance and cultivate the culture of the people, and maximize their potentials, and this can only be done in institutional places for culture, arts, etc.,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can expect more parks in the downtown areas. If we cannot have the parks, we can implement the re-greening of the city. We can have vertical green spaces. If you have buildings with firewalls, maybe that firewall can be utilized for green space, or vertical gardens,” he said.

Cortez added that he is planning to require building owners to dedicate a wall for vertical green space.

More slums, more social problems

Clark said that the movement of people from rural to urban areas is alarming in a way that it creates more “slums and slum living,” which expose the families to even greater dangers when they choose to live in the metropolitan areas.

He said that more social problems are found in slums, which may become even worse if not addressed immediately.

“You’ve got all the social problems. That means a lot of your infrastructure developments – it has a very difficult time to put in place so you can’t actually improve the situation in terms of the overall urbanization process until you deal with these particular areas,” he said.

He added that people from rural areas would want to move in to the city in search of better opportunities and more comfortable living.

“In Asia, you have a massive explosion of urban slums. This is an issue which is not given anywhere near an emphasis as it should be because it’s creating this high number of people living in vulnerable situations,” he said.

Urban migrants

Meanwhile, in Brgy. 23-C, Poblacion District in Davao City, a heavily populated slum community in downtown area where most families live in shanties, residents face either threats of fire or flooding.

Noraisa Casan, 29, and her common law husband, Budin Goling, 28, along with their five children, moved to Davao City from Marawi City in 2015, in hope of finding a comfortable life.

Some of her relatives also made the city their home.

Casan told MindaNews on Saturday that she runs a small sari-sari in a rented space of a two-level wooden house. Their store turns into their home by night where all seven of them are packed to sleep.

Her husband is out during the day to earn a living from tricycle driving.

Despite their meager monthly family income of around P5,000, she said it is better to have something to feed for their family than having none at all.

“Maganda ang buhay dito. Aasenso kami dito. Hindi mahirap ang buhay at madaling makahanap ng trabaho (Life here is so much better. Our lot in life has improved. Life here is not difficult and it is easy to find a job),” Casan said.

She said that she wishes to buy a property someday where they can build their own house. Her family pays a monthly rent of P2,500 for their shanty, located a few meters away from the sea.

During a downpour, Casan said her family would go up on the second floor as the flood sometimes rises to knee level and inundates their sari-sari store.

“Nakakatakot syempre pero mas nakakatakot ang sunog kasi mahirap makalabas (We’re frightened by flood but fire is even more frightening because it is difficult to escape),” she said.

Their shanty is surrounded by several other houses made of light materials.

Janel Sayed, 37, a fisherfolk, sat on a bench while he gazed at the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS), an island located just across where he and his parents used to call home before they moved out in 1986.

“Dire mas dali ang panginabuhi (Here, it’s much easier to live),” he said. “Mas gwapo sa Davao kay modern ang gamit (Davao is much better because we own modern equipment here),” he added.

Sayed said he and other fishers would venture out into Davao Gulf between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

His friend, Davao-born Ghangy Jumadil, 47, who was resting under a tree before fishing, shared that her parents were originally from Zamboanga City before leaving for Davao due to armed conflict in the 1960s.

He said his mother was a housewife while his father worked at an abaca plantation in the city.

Jumadil and wife Zoraida, 37, along with their seven children, live in a stilt house that stands by the sea where they sometimes face threats of strong monsoon waves.

But a seawall has been built to give some sort of protection to several hundreds of houses from the waves.

“Delikado pud me diri og sunog (We are also at risk of fire),” he said.

Jumadil agreed with his friend, Sayed, that there’s no better place to live in other than the city. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)