Environment groups bat end to construction activities

LOCAL environmental groups are urging the City Government of Davao to suspend any ongoing private construction operations in Shrine Hills and include property developers and residents in future dialogues.

Interface Development Interventions (Idis) Director Chinkie Golle said Idis and Save Davao Shrine Hills Advocates (SDSHA) see that the continuous private-led construction in Shrine Hills will worsen the risk of another landslide.

"We consistently told the local government in the previous years to strictly regulate the construction of developments in Shrine Hills due to the study conducted by Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) before saying that 222 hectares of Shrine Hills is vulnerable to landslide and erosion," Golle said.

Even with the City Council's decision last 2013 to consider Shrine Hills as a protected zone wherein further urbanization is controlled, there are still few private developers who continue to operate years after, which probably have caused the corrosion in the hills along with the recent heavy rainfall.

Golle said the local government must have extended its regulating power in the previous years, before it was declared as a protected zone, even when most of the lands in Shrine Hills are privately-owned.

"They (local government) always told us before that they cannot prevent the land owners from constructing properties. They forgot that they have the power to secure the public’s safety and environment protection," she said.

With LGUs and the Department of Public Works and Highways in Davao region in constant dialogue, environmental groups are optimistic that viable actions and decisions will be crafted to prevent a repeat of the incident or other natural disaster.

She added that it’s best to invite land developers, private establishment owners, and residents in Shrine Hills and include them in the discussions to present to them the current situation of the hill and exchange recommendations and solutions with them.

"We also recommended the city mayor to invite geologists and geological engineers during talks as they are the ones who have clear knowledge about the issue at hand concerning the vulnerability of Shrine Hills from wearing away," Golle said.

Golle said environmental groups are willing to extend help to the local government with necessary assessments for the conservation of Shrine Hills.
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