A LIEUTENANT of the Philippine Army assigned with the civil military operations of the 69th Infantry Battalion says that part of their mandate is to protect the environment, a local newspaper, not Sun.Star Davao, reported yesterday.

The lady lieutenant added that the 69th IB has been deputized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to guard the forests in Calinan, Marilog, Paquibato, Buhangin, Toril and Buhangin.

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We just hope that her superiors will come out with the same statement. In the meantime, we just have to make do with a lieutenant's word and hope that all those soldiers out there will indeed protect our forests.

Last week, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte said the preservation and respect of lumad culture stands high in her administration's priorities as she sees the indigenous people and cultures as valuable resources.

"Resource nato na ang atong mga Lumad culture ug ang atoang mga kaigsuonan nga Lumad (The different Lumad culture and our Lumad brothers and sisters are our resources)," she said.

With the military assuring that there will be no illegal logging and the mayor herself saying that her administration is there to preserve what is indigenous in our people, then we can be assured of a development that will not just ensure sustainability but also a growth that is rooted in what is uniquely Davao and what has spurred our communities to develop this way.

Most provinces, cities, and towns are always claiming they are the destination to beat as they break out in songs and dances highlighted by ethnic beats.

But for as long as those ethnic origins are just memories of a past danced to the tune of generic gongs and drums amid painted faces and colorful costumes the celebrations will just be some reason to party and nothing more. For as long as ethnic origins and cultures are swept away by development, we will just be another city with giant malls and amusement parks to look forward to. How we can stand out as the real destination to beat is how we will be able to preserve what it is in Davao that has made it what it is today.

The experience that strikes most at the heart of any visitor or resident comes from the heart of the city itself, and for Davao, it is in its indigenous roots and its forests which has made multi-millionaires of the pioneering families who came and settled here. Two resources: both expendable and exploitable but also both worth preserving and conserving.

But experience has taught us that the greater benefits are reaped from preservation and conservation and not from exploitation and waste. Thus, the two statements -- that the military is there to protect not just our people from insurgency but also to protect our forests from poachers, and that the city government has put a premium on the cultures of the indigenous peoples -- early into the administration of our new city government holds a lot of promise.

We just hope that the same sentiment and drive will remain as the newly-elected officials and their support groups like the military will carry through to the end of their terms.