Davao’s new bus system to affect Lumad communities – ADB

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 May) – The high priority bus system (HPBS), a mass public transport modernization program that seeks to decongest traffic in this city, will affect three indigenous peoples’ communities in six barangays in four districts, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) document released in January. 

Passengers line up to ride one of the buses in the early rollout of Davao City’s interim High Priority Bus System along Roxas Street in this photo taken in December 2021. MindaNews file photo by YAS D. OCAMPO

The HPBS will affect the IP communities of the Ata, Obo Manobo, and Bagobo Tagabawa in Barangay Lamanan in Calinan District; Malamba, Salaysay, and Marilog Proper in Marilog District; Barangay Carmen in Baguio District; and Barangay Sibulan in Toril District. 

The transport project has spanned years of consultations beginning as early as the term of former Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

According to the ADB document, the proposed routes of the HPBS will traverse through roads that pass through Lumad communities with Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) in these barangays. 

The information comes from an ADB document titled “Philippines: Davao Public Transport Modernization Project’s Resettlement and Indigenous Peoples Plan.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Sara Duterte issued Executive Order No. 7, to reorganize the local inter-agency committee intended to assess resettlement for stakeholders affected by the city’s transport initiatives, namely, the HPBS and Mindanao Railway System, projects being implemented by the Department of Transportation.

EO7 included the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP) regional office, the Davao City Legal Office and the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) city office as members of a local inter-agency committee (LIAC) to assist residents affected by the upcoming HPBS and the Mindanao Railway Project.

EO7 amends EO56, series of 2021, which named the members of the inter-agency committee. EO56 had the regional offices of the DILG and the NCIP as members.

The local measures were a response to a letter by the DOTr last year for the city to create the body to assist in the resettlement of anyone affected by the two projects. 

“In order to ensure the successful integration and effective management of the resettlement aspects of HPBS Project and MRP, there is a need to formulate a Local Inter-Agency Committee for Resettlement to properly manage and coordinate the concerns pertaining this aspect across all agencies,” Mayor Duterte said in EO7 issued on February 16. 

The HPBS includes two detailed plans for resettlement: a Resettlement Plan for depots, terminals, and the driving school, and another document called the Resettlement and Indigenous Peoples Plan (RIPP) for the bus stops and pedestrian improvements, which will traverse three IP communities, the ADB said in its website.

A document published in the ADB website identifies Davao City’s HPBS as having in its transport modernization three main components, namely, public transport system improvement, institutional capacity strengthening, and social development program.

The draft describes the bus-based network as having at least 100 kilometers in its core and a feeder network comprising over 500 kilometers. 

The bus system will include at least 29 route networks plied by 18- and 12-meter bus units.

It will have at least three public transport terminals, five depots, a school for bus drivers, 1,074 bus stops, and improvements to the pedestrian network. 

The ADB document aims “to identify all impacts associated with land acquisition and resettlement involving landowners, nonlandowners, owners of businesses and institutions and trees and crops.”

According to the ADB, the final output will change depending on the outcome of coordination with stakeholders. 

Meanwhile, jeepney stakeholders ostensibly affected by the HPBS program are already being assisted by the DOTr through a social development program. 

For the HPBS alone, the land acquisition for the Project will affect seven barangays in Davao City, namely Cabantian, Bunawan Proper, Calinan Proper, Lacson, Panacan, Catalunan Pequeño and Bato.

The total land area to be acquired is 52.30 hectares of land, of which 48.30 are private and 4 are public.

Currently, the city is running an interim HPBS bus program that includes bus rides across different routes.

Some bus rides are for free, care of various government programs. (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)