PEACE and development is the main objective of the topographic mapping project for Mindanao but there were those who were more concerned about its security and privacy implications.

At least, this was among the major bone of contention during the project launching at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao on Tuesday.

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The project "aimed to prepare digital topographic maps covering the entire Mindanao (at the scale of 1:50,000)." The topographic map, made up of satellite images, will be able to provide accurate information on specific areas of Mindanao.

"Through this, the entire Mindanao, including the areas we have not seen before, will be exposed," said Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) chair Jesus Dureza. "There's Google Map on the public domain but we're packaging this map to be able to label everything in Mindanao."

But when he said that the information in the map can be accessed by anyone, the audience started to fuss.

But Dureza believes its benefit will far outweigh whatever negative concerns the audience raised.

"As far as the military is concerned, having a clear view of the ground will bring strategic and tactical benefits," he said.

An example was raised on whether the MILF or the rebel groups can also have access to the information. Dureza said yes, adding that both the government and the MILF will find the strategic benefits of the information valuable.

"There's a lot of implication on the security aspect of this kind of map," Dureza admitted. He said that the topographic mapping project is for Mindanao's peace and development, and that includes taking the risk of making the information accessible to everyone.

"Protocols will be provided by the NAMRIA (National Mapping and Resource Information Authority) on how to access this, so the map will become especially strategic to peace and development planners," he clarified.

On the other hand, the project also elicited positive reactions on the technical aspect. "Ang topographic map, maraming surrogate maps important for planning. For example, planning for climate change, disaster risk assessment, agriculture. We need this project for base information since the last mapping was done way before pa," said Dr. Nilo Oponda, UP Mindanao professor.

The topographic mapping for peace and development in Mindanao is a joint project of Minda, NAMRIA, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). The product is expected to be available in two years. (Marie Angeli Laxa)