A rollercoaster ride for Davao City in 2017

THE memory of red flames and black smoke turning one of the city's best-loved malls into a heap of misshapen steel bars and claddings will forever mark 2017. But that's not all that 2017 was about.

Looking back, it was a year of ups and downs, steps forward and backward, most of it in the field of governance where the administration of Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, explored possibilities and opportunities for the city and tore down elements that hamper the city’s growth and development.

Peace efforts

Duterte-Carpio stepped up efforts to achieve peace this year despite New People’s Army clashes with government troops from time to time.

From manifesting interest to hold talks with NPAs since February, to condemning NPAs in killing a fish vendor in May, to crafting an executive order for localized peace talks in September, surely the mayor has shown a love-hate relationship with NPAs this year.

Duterte-Carpio has supposedly given the DC-Peace, the committee formed for localized talks, until November 2018 to have fruitful talks with the communists, but this December, she terminated localized peace talks since President Rodrigo Duterte issued a pronouncement tagging the NPA as terrorists.

Martial law

A hold and secure method to prevent violence from erupting in the city was implemented within the city after the declaration of martial law last May 23.

Duterte-Carpio gave the public and the business sector a set of instructions to follow under the martial rule.

The city lost tourism receipts estimated at P20 million in the first three days of martial law as the number of visitors decreased 19 percent from January to June, the City Tourism Operations Office said.

But Kadayawan season came and throngs of tourists arrived as Davao City sent its message that martial law has in fact made the city much safer.

For the first time, it opened a Kadayawan Village that attracted 6,000 to 10,000 visitors daily. This village showcased the culture of 11 tribes.

CTOO recorded a total of 185,660 tourist arrivals based on reports from the hotels during the Kadayawan season.

Foreign visitors

The city entertained many foreign dignitaries this year, such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited last January, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who arrived in April for the launching of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Roro route.

Last May 8, the mayor of Nanning China, Mayor Zhou Hongbo also went to Davao City, and in December, Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben Matitayau came to Davao to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) of Excellence in Education: A Lighthouse Education project between the city government of Davao and PassitForward.

P39-B project stopped

After a year of careful review, Duterte-Carpio decided to terminate the memorandum of agreement signed by the city and the Mega Harbour Port and Development Incorporated for the P39-billion Davao Coastline and Port Development Project.

The project’s “commercial viability, legal and social implications, and possible effects to the environment” were among the factors that the city mayor considered in making her decision.

The mayor refused to sit down with the project proponents after she made her decision.

Shrine Hills landslide

The year 2017 also underscored what the 2013 zoning ordinance identified as an ecological sub-zone and must not allow developments on the flanks of Shrine Hills as a landslide that started in October first caused major inconvenience because of massive traffic jams that followed the closure of a portion of C.P. Garcia Highway (Diversion Road) along the old dumpsite, then later took a substantial portion of a multi-million peso radio station compound.

Geologists from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said developments on Shrine Hills, including one that involved the diversion of a waterway, and the excavation done for road widening were among key contributing factors of the landslide.

The latest update on this is that the City Engineer’s Office has already endorsed to the Davao City Legal Office the filing of administrative charges for the owners of the establishment of illegal structures in the area.

Boom cranes

Duterte-Carpio told the developers of Aeon towers to move the boom of the crane on top of the structure or she will never allow the building to open.

The boom cranes have forced the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to close runway 5 of the Davao City International Airport because the cranes are within the maximum flight height allowed of any structure.

The Aeon towers management finally apologized for the public disturbance the boom caused and removed the boom crane last November 30, but only after the mayor's stern warning.

Garbage

The mayor this year said that the Davao City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) has been addressing the problem of leachate from the sanitary landfill that has spilled into the water systems.

The sanitary landfill in Tugbok was supposed to be used for only 5 to 6 years but rehabilitation is ongoing to extend its life.

Achievements

The city once again bagged the Seal of Good Local Governance award (SGLG) for the fourth time. It also bagged the national award for Best Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or the Gawad Kalasag Award, and the Hall of Fame award for the Presidential Award for the Most Child Friendly City (PAMCF).

Duterte-Carpio, in her State of the City Address, highlighted that in line with Byaheng DO30 platform, the city plans to implement soon a High Priority Bus System (HPBS) in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which conducted the study for the project.

The project according to Duterte-Carpio, will not phase out jeepneys in the city, but jeepney drivers are given option to transport feeder routes not occupied by bus. The mayor said that with the project, she wants drivers to be investors of the HPBS project which target completion is in 2019.

Last December 19, the city mayor signed a memorandum of understanding the Department of Transportation, to craft a comprehensive transportation master plan to solve the city’s traffic problem.

Davao Group

This year, Davao city officials in the legislative and executive departments were dragged into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment controversy at the Bureau of Customs, which was the subject of an investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the mayor’s husband Manases Carpio, and Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera appeared before the Senate hearing to answer questions on their involvement on the smuggling case.

This was when "no way" became a byword anew as Duterte refused to show Senator Antonio Trillanes IV his back after the senator accused him of being a member of the Triad syndicate and that the proof is that Duterte has a dragon tattoo on his back.

Overall, it was a year of Senator Trillanes attacking the Dutertes, all his accusations having been denied, including the alleged tattoo. The vice mayor does not have a dragon tattoo as those who have seen his back attest.

Ordinances

This year the city council passed numerous ordinances, among the most highlighted ones is the anti-unattended bag ordinance, which penalizes persons who leaves bags unattended without causing alarm, and causing alarm. Penalties from P100 up to P5,000 will be faced by the violator depending on the level of offense.

This ordinance has already been signed by the city mayor.

The legislative department last October 10 approved on third and final reading the allowable use of land for the water treatment facility to be built by the Apo Agua Infrastructure Incorporated in Barangay Gumalang, Baguio District. This is to give way to the Tamugan Bulkwater project which is eyed as a solution to the water problem in Cabantian.

Resignation

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte announced his resignation last December 25, citing “delicadeza,” his desire to protect his family and factors related to his failed first marriage.

"These among others, include the maligning of my reputation in the recent name-dropping incident in the Bureau Customs smuggling case and the very public squabble with daughter," he said, pertaining to his daughter Isabelle with his first wife Lovelie Sangkola Sumera.

The city mayor said that they are waiting for the President Rodrigo Duterte’s response to her brother’s resignation letter which was already sent to Malacañang last December 26.

Tropical Storm Vinta

Right before the horrific fire at the NCCC Mall that killed at least 37 call center employees and one mall employee morning of December 23, 2017, 18,000 families had to be evacuated as the Davao River breached its banks from rainfall brought by tropical storm Vinta nighttime of December 22, 2017.

The success of the rescue operations despite the widespread flooding that at places reached the rooftops of houses, which had zero casualty, however, was eclipsed by the tragedy that came the morning after.

The city mayor through a letter of urgency asked the city council to give her legislative authority to release P86.4 million remaining Quick Response Fund to help the typhoon victims. The council convened the special session on a Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day and the days that came after, Dabawenyos showed their care for others once more as they not only offered prayers for the victims and families of the mall fire but also gathered in throngs at the Task Force Davao headquarters to respond to the call to help pack food for the flood victims' noche buena.

The sight of the volunteers was like a salve to the brokenness that would have ended the year as the Dabawenyo spirit rose high anew.

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