A phoenix in Davao Oriental

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By Jun Ledesma

Sunbursts

Monday, March 3, 2014


PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino was surprised that a number of visible progress in the restoration and rehabilitation projects in Davao Oriental is actually taking place. Flying by chopper to survey what was then a site of desolation, the President was surprised to see development in many parts of the province that he had anticipated to still be in the state of despair.

Landing in Cateel, one of the badly hit towns in the east coast, President Aquino cannot help but remark: "Are you sure we landed in the right place?" The President was amazed with the transformation of a landscape of devastation that he saw barely over a year ago to a scene of regeneration of farms and other livelihood and the restoration of over a thousand homes. Where grim faces and outstretched hands met him in the past, this time he was met by townsfolk with smile in their faces and dancing jubilantly welcomed him.

It was good for President Aquino to swing to the typhoon-ravaged provinces before, during and after the commemoration of EDSA People Power revolt. The visit gave a more significant theme to the event for how can Metro Manila celebrate when many parts of the country are in a state of wretchedness? The People Power event does not only evoke the end of dictatorship and liberation it also marks a new beginning, a revival of hope and life. Aquino's presence in such a remote place like Cateel is, in a way, a celebration of the deeper significance and meaning of People Power.

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But even as Davao Oriental has dramatically moved on the province still needs all the help the national government and aid agencies can extend. It is awe-inspiring that despite the meager assistance the province received, the provincial government leadership painstakingly carried out its rehabilitation and restoration program. While I have been quite critical of lackadaisical action that some government agencies and departments are so used to, it is noteworthy to note that the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been in the forefront of many of the rehab and restoration efforts. There is, of course, the USAid and Manny Pangilinan who was the first to respond generously to the needs of the homeless victims.

With the visit of President Aquino, high expectation is revived that more funds will be earmarked to fast-track the restoration of infrastructures, which had been damaged by Typhoon Pablo and, most recently, by a devastating low weather disturbance that brought unprecedented rainfall that inundated almost anything that Pablo had destroyed.

Indeed, the province of Davao Oriental could be likened to the legendary bird called Phoenix, which is said to have lived 500 years, burned itself to ashes and then rose again to live another period.

I want to compare the political leadership of the province headed by Gov. Corazon Malanyaon and her constituents to what the Phoenix bird in the legend represents: strength, determination, resilience, peace, prosperity and life! Why can't I? Amid the ruins new opportunities sprung. While in many parts of the province communities rely mainly on coconuts, new cash crops are being introduced. Farmers are now planting and, in fact, have harvested fast gestating crops. The province may yet become the cacao capital of the Philippines. Even the vegetation around the fascinating Aliwagwag Falls has been revived.

When Typhoon Pablo was approaching the eastern seaboard of Mindanao, not a few fleet of fishing boats and the crew members perished. The tragedy revealed that many of the big-time fishing operators from General Santos City actually fish in the Pacific near the coastline of Davao Oriental. The province is mulling setting up a fish port in a typhoon-protected cove near Mati. Seeing small fishermen graduate from hook-and-line and small nets to owning fishing fleets is not actually farfetched. With a little help from the President, we can see the flight of still another Phoenix in Davao Oriental.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 04, 2014.

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