Davao state of mind

Subscribe Now June 20, 2013 at 09:18pm

WHAT comes to mind after Mayor Sara Duterte's State of the City Address was not her misses and accomplishments, but rather how much have changed in Davao for the past 20 years or so, yet much remain the same.

For instance, I remember one community I visited along Bankerohan River a decade ago when it was flooded by the swelling river one rainy season. Some of these folks I talked to said they live in this place since the 1970s or 80s. They are still there, bracing perennial floods that get worse every year, including the one last January.

I also remember growing up hearing stories of neighboring Agdao District which is once called a "Nicaragdao" -- a base for the NPA’s urban sparrow units, and then it became a laboratory of the AFP's Alsa Masa vigilantes that chased away the sparrow units.

But for the past decades, Agdao communities faced new problems – urban demolitions and floods. Business establishments have driven out communities, some of which were in dispute with landowners in court. Newly-built malls adjacent to Agdao and other infrastructure such as highways and buildings have caused floods during heavy rain.

It's not only the folks in Bankerohan or Agdao that face these problems in this city. Floods and urban poor rights for decent housing, services and employment are major concerns and remain a backlog for this city as it accepts the influx of investors and internal migrants.

Outgoing Mayor Sara and some councilors agree to these backlogs, and this is a challenge not only to the next set of leaders, but also to the people to be vigilant and press these officials to act for their welfare.

The city has heeded a Dutch consultant who said the city's drainage program has to be reviewed as it is old and not responsive to the present influx of infrastructure in the city. Fifteen flood-prone areas in the city have been marked for the city's drainage project and eight of these have been completed.

The city has entered to a partnership with the National Housing Authority for 200 housing units in the city's Los Amigos Relocation Site. But this is not enough for the thousands of families in Bankerohan or in Agdao, or in any other communities displaced in the past decades with the construction of malls in Bajada or Lanang, or by subdivisions such as in Ma-a.

Twenty years ago, I see less of buildings and more communities lining the highways. Now, there may be more buildings that only cover the growing communities inside the alleys that remain vulnerable to many things.

That mean poverty remained the same in the past twenty years. So is politics, as only three persons have occupied City Hall in the past twenty years, two of them just served one term.

People have high hopes for our returning mayor in his seventh term, and he has made a promise to provide housing and land for the poor. Many folks in Davao are still without decent homes and lack access to basic services to health, water and sanitation. Many are jobless and job fairs only welcome work in service sector, but the support for agriculture and local industries is close to nil. There are other problems such as privatization of water service that threaten to raise water rates along with power rates. The coal-fired power plant faces criticism for its threat to the city's environment.

This brings us to another constant in the life of Davao aside from poverty and politics. Activism has been generic in Davao sine Martial Law drawing a critical mass among the poor and even among lawyers, church people and academe. This has challenged the city's government to carry out resolutions and policies to favor not just the elite but also to the poor.

This challenge remains on our people and on our new leadership to change our state in Davao.

Source: sunstar.com.ph

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