THE Davao City Government issued an executive order (EO) creating a joint task force to guide, regulate and monitor businesses and other developments in Paquibato District.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio issued Executive Order (EO) No. 71, Series of 2021, which states that unregulated tourism-related establishments and business developments have sprouted in the area over the years. These establishments and developments mostly occupy lands classified as timberland or forest land areas.

Other pressing issues, such as the undertaking of activities in protected areas by individuals and entities other than the indigenous peoples (IP) settlers; rapid conversion of agricultural lands into commercial, residential, industrial, and other uses; and the issues and problems against insurgency transcend boundaries in Paquibato District because the terrain is contiguous with other local government units (LGUs), must also be addressed, the mayor said in her order.

Duterte-Carpio said the city intends to pursue the expansion of forest areas, which is one of the proposed actions in the updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Clup) 2019-2028 and will consequently be reflected in the city's updated Zoning Ordinance.

"There is a need to formulate a joint task force involving concerned local offices and national agencies to evaluate the scale of unregulated developments and other concerns adversely affecting the natural character of Paquibato District and to properly manage and monitor activities therein," she said.

The Joint Task Force for Paquibato District will be composed of the city mayor as chairperson, Peace 911 as co-chairperson, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Tourism, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, City Legal Office, City Planning and Development Office (CPDO), the Permits and Licenses Division, Office of the City Building Official, Liga ng mga Barangay, Tribal Leaders in Paquibato District, and the Indigenous Political Structure - Ancestral Domain Management Office in Paquibato District as regular members.

The task force is mandated to inspect and monitor all activities conducted in Paquibato District relative to the compliance and non-compliance of the provisions of law, ordinances, pertinent rules, and regulations. It will also assess and validate unregulated commercial establishments and activities in restricted areas; overlapping land uses and tenurial instruments; and boundary conflicts.

"It is also tasked to make appropriate recommendations to the city mayor and/or the Sangguniang Panlungsod for the preservation and protection of Paquibato District and its residents; solicit assistance and cooperation of concerned local and national government agencies, non-government organizations, and other private entities and individuals to ensure efficiency in the discharge of its functions; submit a quarterly progress report to the Office of the City Mayor; and perform such other functions as the City Mayor may order from time to time," the EO provides.

The CPDO is ordered to serve as Secretariat and handle all administrative and secretarial functions of the task force.

All operational costs of the joint task force will be charged to available funds of the City Government of Davao, subject to the usual accounting and auditing rules and regulations.

EO 71 cited Section 22, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, which stipulates that it is the State's policy to recognize and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development.

It also cited Section 2 (e) of Republic Act No. 8371, also known as "The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997," which provides that the State shall take measures, with the participation of the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) concerned, to protect their rights and guarantee respect for their cultural integrity and to ensure that members of the ICCs/IPs benefit on an equal footing from the rights and opportunities that national laws and regulations grant to other members of the population.

Section 18 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the "Local Government Code of 1991," authorizes the local government units to establish an organization that will be responsible for the efficient and effective implementation of their development plans, programs, objectives, and priorities.

Paquibato District is situated between Davao City and Davao del Norte. It consists of 13 barangays with a total land area of 66,242.52 hectares and is home to various indigenous peoples, such as the Ata Tribe.