Editorial: Learning from Oriental

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Friday, June 27, 2014

THE celebration of the foundation day of Davao Oriental became more meaningful as it came in the heels of the inscription of Mt. Hamiguitan Range and Wildlife Sanctuary in the Unesco World Heritage List.

There was a different joy to the opening of the celebration last Thursday as with it came a sense of pride of the Dabawenyos, the people of Davao Oriental. Just about everybody was puffing with pride. Their Mt. Hamiguitan is now among the very few World Heritage sites. That inscription, however, came with hard work and a determination of its people to thwart attempts from various national agencies and big moneyed companies to explore the rich minerals that the mountain range holds deep in its bosoms and the remaining forest stands that protect its slopes.

It was not just a matter of applying and making Unesco see the beauty of the pygmy forest and Tinagong Dagat, but in convincing the world that the small communities surrounding the range have done their part in protecting these from exploiters – exploiters that is teeming all over Davao Oriental and lusting over its rich resources.


Accolades to Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon N. Malanyaon, but moreso to the silent workers – San Isidro Mayor Justina M.B. Yu and Governor Generoso Mayor Vicente D. Orencia. Mayor Yu has been at the forefront of the conservation and protection of Hamiguitan even in the 1990s during her first years as mayor. Mayor Orencia has made sure that people have alternative livelihood from around the mountain so that all of them will work to protect the range. For one, the tapping of almaciga (Agathis philippinensis Warb.) latex has ensured a good livelihood source far more sustainable than any multi-million mining investment can ever bring.

In this endemic forest tree, millions are derived from what is called Manila copa. Although considered a minor forest product, Manila copal is valued for its superior quality as raw material for the manufacturing of varnish, lacquer, reflector paint, sealing wax, as a substitute for Shellac, smudge for mosquitoes, incense, fire starter and torches. All these without felling a single tree.

There is a lot we can learn from the inscription. First, that the small people can put up a strong fight against the big exploiters like mining companies and illegal loggers for as long as they have the support of their local executives. Second, only determined and deliberate acts toward protection and preservation can ever ensure that our natural resources are indeed protected.

Mt. Hamiguitan, for one, was just a second liner to Mt. Apo, which was the first one nominated to be in the list. As such, it shared the serial number for the nomination. But no one worked to ensure that Mt. Apo gets in the list, and so Davao Oriental managed to convince Unesco to consider Mt. Hamiguitan as a separate nominee, earning its own serial number a few years back. With more push and a lot of hard work in documenting and legislations, Mt. Hamiguitan joined the elite list of World Heritage Sites, distinguishing itself as the first World Heritage Site in Mindanao and the first under the classification of Mountain Range in the Philippines.

The other five in the World Heritage List are the Baroque Churches of the Philippines composed of the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, San Agustin Church in Manila, and the Sta. Maria Church in Ilocos Sur; the Historic town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur; the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan, the Rice Terraces in Igugao, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea.

That was a lot of tough work and cooperation. A proof that when people work together, we can literally move mountains. Congratulations to the Davao Oriental team.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 28, 2014.


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