Vice mayor calls out environmentalists on palm oil plan for Paquibato, Marilog

Vice mayor Paolo Z. Duterte lashed back at critics of the proposed palm oil project in Paquibato District as he said that they were silent when the government was soliciting suggestions to address poverty in the area.

“For so many years, the local government has been trying to solve the problem of insurgency and poverty in some areas of Paquibato district. I support the suggestion of the mayor to put up a palm oil plantation because I think this brings about a win-win solution to the problem,” the younger Duterte said in a statement.

Duterte called out Jean Lindo, co-chair of Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, for “not saying anything” when the local government was looking for solutions in the area.

“During the time when the government as thinking of solutions on the Paquibato problem, they were silent. Now there’s a possible remedy, the ‘geniuses’ suddenly open their mouths,” he said.

The vice mayor, who chairs the city council, defended the city council’s support for the project, saying the body “represents the voices of the people of Davao.” He said the lawmakers are just going to approve any proposal that will cause damage to the government.

Aside from farming opportunities for the residents of Paquibato, the project would also lead to more benefits such as SSS, Pag-ibig, Philhealth, as well as the creation of a profit-sharing scheme to ensure that the farmers and owners will get their fair share of the profits generated by their land.

“If the oppositors of this project have a better idea for Paquibato, the doors of the Sangguniang are wide open for you to come in and explain your proposition,” Duterte said.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said earlier this week that those opposed to the project should suggest alternatives if they think having an palm oil project would not be beneficial to the area.

Duterte had said that Malaysian and Thai companies are eyeing large tracts of land in both Paquibato and Marilog districts as plantations for the crop.

“(We) urge the Local Government of Davao City to look also at the perils of foreign corporate-controlled palm oil plantations based on people’s experiences and not only the companies’ mere promises of economic development,” Panalipdan said in a statement.

The environmental group said the creation of palm oil plantations in the area threatens the status of Paquibato as an important water resource area.

Paquibato District makes up for 66,242.52 hectares of the city’s 244,000 hectares, according to the Comprehensive Land Use Program (CLUP) of the city.

Comprising 13 barangays, the area is largely undeveloped due to a lack of access roads and government service.

The city has designated the areas of Marilog and Paquibato as an economic zone primarily designated for all community based agro-forestry development programs and upland agricultural development, according to the CLUP.

The district is also facing an insurgency problem from the New People’s Army.

Last week, the city government, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, declared the area “insurgency free,” with Duterte inviting members of the rebel group to be part of the development of the area through the supposed opportunities of the palm oil project. (by Yas Ocampo)