Kang-irag project revisited

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


IT’S good that farmers and the barangay chiefs of Cebu City’s mountain areas of Babag, Malubog, Sibugay and Sirao have gathered the courage to ask government to correct an injustice they suffered more than three decades ago.

They want to recover hectares of land that were virtually confiscated by them by the administration of then president Ferdinand Marcos and his businessmen-friends (cronies).

That “injustice” echoed throughout the Cebu City’s hinterlands in the ‘80s and partly contributed to the farmers’ decision to join the rebellion that raged in Cebu’s mountain areas during that period.

Unlike landlords in other areas with vast farmlands, those in the city’s mountain barangays only had a few hectares to their names and these were tilled by poor peasants. The feudal bond wasn’t strong although there were instances of abuse and life was essentially backward (the Cebu Transcentral Highway and asphalted and concreted words that now crisscross the mountain weren’t built then).

In 1981, Marcos issued Proclamation 2052 declaring the barangays of Babag, Malubog, Sibugay (now Pung-ol-Sibugay) and Sirao in Cebu City and the municipalities of Argao and Dalaguete as tourist zones under the control of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

That proclamation was not plucked out of thin air, of course, meaning that somebody must have whispered it to the dictator.It propped up the plan for the so-called Kang-irag Sports Complex and Development Project in portions of the four barangays. There was also the Cebu Beach Club in the Argao-Dalaguete area.

The Kang-irag project was an ambitious one. The area spanned around 1000 hectares and PTA planned to build there a golf course, a sports complex (with basketball courts, tennis courts and track and field arena), club house and nature’s park for picnics and horseback riding.

Also in the plan was the construction of deep wells to solve the scarcity of water and the setting up of an electric power grid in the project area (the place was not yet fully energized at that time).

PTA even promised to come up with a “complex sewerage and drainage system” to minimize the danger of pollution.

Also envisioned was the sprouting of complimentary and support facilities including even shopping malls. The sweetener was that those affected would gain employment from the businesses that will rise there.

Armed with an imprimatur from the dictator, PTA proceeded to expropriate the affected farmlands and forcibly bought these at bargain price. The farmers and small land owners, many of whom were descendants of the World War II guerillas that fought the Japanese occupation forces in the early 1940s, resisted the implementation of the plan physically and legally. But they were helpless against government’s might.

The lingering image of that injustice was of heavy equipment destroying farmlands, crushing fully grown corn and other agricultural produce. That sparked rage, one that fueled the farmers participation in the armed struggle in the Cebu hinterlands in the mid-‘80s.

Of the announced projects, only the Kang-irag golf course was built, and even that wasn’t completed. The dictator was ousted by the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising and the administration of Corazon Aquino that replaced the dictatorship didn’t support the Kang-irag project.

But it didn’t also correct the injustice heaped on the farmers and the small landowners affected by it.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 18, 2014.

Opinion

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