Browsing over local news while waiting for a flight from Dubai to Manila, I came across an article that read: Davao mayor terminates mega harbor project.
Opinion lang, the decision of mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to terminate that huge P39-billion coastal development project, which was considered under the administration of former mayor Rodrigo Duterte, is laudable.
The project would have involved a 200-hectare reclamation of the sea from Agdao to the mouth of the Davao River for the purpose of building four islands for mixed-use development. Conventional expectation would have sent the project full steam ahead, as the joint-venture agreement between the city and Mega Harbor Port and Development Corporation was signed by now the highest official of the land. But really, pursuing the project would have given priority to a grandiose nicety over more compelling needs.
Urban Davao City is largely a strip of shoreline development, stretched from Toril to Lasang by a national highway traversing downtown Davao. It is an EDSA in the making, or even worse, because close by one side of this highway is all water. All kinds of development are crowding this strip, including those that do not need the shoreline. In turn, residential development and occupation of government and untended private land by informal settlers have gravitated toward this strip. Much of the shoreline itself is dotted by unmitigated illegal structures, along with the social and health issues that come with them, that mar the usually beautiful coastline character of a city. All these have caused tremendous pressure on the environment, the full extent of which are mostly unseen or unfelt, for now.
But that may not be for long. The urban Davao City, which we know has about 1.5 million people, is only 13,054 hectares, or only 5.35 percent of her total 244,000-hectare land area. The undeveloped 94 percent simply unmakes the need for reclaiming the sea. Right there, the P39-billion for the terminated project can be used, instead, to develop the northwestern parts of the city toward Calinan, then easterly to Paquibato.
There is a JICA-funded Davao Bypass Project to be built from Panabo to Sirawan that will cross the Davao-Calinan-Bukidnon Highway somewhere between Mintal and Calinan. At the very least, this prospect can prime-start swathes of development along that wide open area if coupled with the relocation of regional offices of government agencies, or better still, of the City Hall. Location-wise, this move will draw substantial decongestion from the city and stimulate urban sprawl to where more elbowroom for urban planning can allow for a holistic development of Metro Davao. It will also position the local government in a geographically central location that will have a 360-degree sweeping span of supervision and public service over a new frontier for development.
The land area of Davao City is about four times that of Metro Manila. That alone is a great challenge to the vision of both our local and national leaders. The termination of the Mega Harbor project gives us another insight not only of the dynamics of Davao City politics but of our mayor’s independence and depth of wisdom, as well.
The author, Jose A. Lim 3rd, is president and CEO (chief executive officer) of the Toyota Davao Group. He is also president of the Toyota Dealers Association of the Philippines. Having been a resident of Davao since 1976, he has seen the metamorphosis of the city, as well as the perils that could threaten the pace of its optimum development.