FROM zone of war to zone of peace and ultimately zone of prosperity. This is how Paquibato District of Davao City will evolve if things will dovetail with what Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte wants the rebel-infested area to be. It sounds utopian but given the resources - fertile land and available investment capital and expertise - nothing is impossible provided the players will come into terms.
Duterte is not talking in his dream. Malaysian and Singaporean investors have made known their interest to put good money in agricultural projects, among these on palm oil. They know what is at stake given the peace and order condition in the area but they are confident that with fair and just partnerships the apprehension and distrust of the New People's Army and landowners who express apprehension in partnering with multinationals will be settled in time. The mayor himself is optimistic that if agreements are reached based on his initial talks with Malaysian and Singaporean investors the poverty situation in the district will gradually be addressed. He made Beijing as an example where US capitalists come into terms with China and thereafter the later became an economic power in the world.
Paquibato can be a contained community. The New People's Army has made the district its enclave along with the Lumads. For as long as the military does not conduct operations in the area we do not hear of any bloody encounter. But this eerie condition is not ideal and Duterte as the father of the City is not at ease with this state. Thus he offered this once in a rebels' lifetime and that of their families'. There are no surrender terms. There are no agenda of disarmament. The term is simple. Keep your arms, organize into cooperatives along with the indigenous peoples, drop the radical political agenda, work for and pursue the plans of your investor-capitalists partners.
The scheme is actually workable in other areas in Davao City which are largely agri-base. While there is this the much talked about watershed issue, our city councilors may take hint from the scheme of Mayor Duterte to reduce poverty in the rural communities within the watershed areas. Think agro-forestry. It is about time that we should put to task plantation owners and investors who want to tap our river resources to come to the aid of marginalized watershed dwellers.
Agro-forestry may sound daunting to the ears of the lumads and others who dwelled within the watershed areas. But planting and culturing coffee and cacao are innately their expertise only that they are not provided with enough support in terms of planting materials and marketing assistance. Cacao and coffee are recognized as among the trees that can mitigate carbon pollution in the environment. In other countries, coffee and cacao perform equally if not better than indigenous tree varieties used as carbon sink. Because they bear fruits over a long period of time they are ideal cover for denuded land in the watershed areas and will in effect reduce rapid drain of rainwater to discharge areas.
Plantation owners, particularly those in upper Calinan may adopt a community to partner with by providing planting materials and expert advice. It will not be a bad idea if these big companies with established market outlets may also be the marketing partners.
Hydropower plant and coal-fired power plant operators must also adopt farming communities within the watershed areas after all it is their mandate to plant trees.
Duterte's formula is not only for peace and prosperity but it effectively addresses our environmental concerns.