Saturday, November 30, 2013

What happened to our timber lands?

Visiting a certain community in Surigao del Sur gave me a lot of surprises and questions that are difficult to answer.

I never had any idea what we were heading to until we reached the place. The road sign says of a school in Davisol. Our companion also told me there is high school therein. I thought it's only a school but there was more than that.

I was intrigued by the name. Why Davisol? I don't have a basis but our companion told me that it is said to mean, David and Solomon.

Structures including a  coop store
When we entered the area, I saw children, women, houses and mangroves. Davisol is in a coastal area of Barangay Manyahay, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

I heard the story that the community is headed by a patriach whom they call as Pater, allegedly to have more than five wives. I heard of stories about cult but I expected to see someone who wears a big cross, long-bearded perhaps old man. When we were talking to one resident, I saw a man wearing jersey and playing basketball in the basketball court. We were able to meet him and had a short chat with him. I was surprised he was Pater. He said he is 67 years old. To my surprise, I didn't expect a 67 year old man playing basketball with youngsters and being able to run with them. He said he plays with his children and grandchildren. Allegedly, he fathered more than 40 children and now have more than 30 grandchildren. That's according to my companion and guide. All of them live in the same community except those working outside and children studying in college.

Man-made lagoon with corals 


I appreciate the lagoon surrounded by mangroves. My companion told me that the lagoon is man-made and the women helped a lot to finish the lagoon.

I saw structures in the area - houses, school buildings, store, church. The store says its a cooperative. The church has a different altar design contrary to common altar designs I see in Catholic churches and some protestant churches. Again, my companion told me that the community say their prayers in Latin and worship in Latin.

For many years ago, the Catholic Church has changed a lot. Before, they only allow masses to be said in Latin. Now, masses and bibles are in local dialects throughout the world. What could be there in that community saying prayers and worship all in Latin?

Remains of a big tree


My companion told me that the community has already produced professionals like engineers. She also told me that the community follows Philippine laws on environmental protection. I saw a waste-segregation area too. I also wondered what happened to the very big tree cut in the area.

However, I learned that the community produce crafts made of iron wood, locally known as "magkono" (or mangkono?).  He also told me that the community stopped making wood crafts after the total log ban which is still in effect until now. Ironically, one of my companions was there to look for that wood craft. And someone has to accompany a prospective buyer in order to be able to buy a wood craft that was said to be made long before the log ban as they don't sell anymore. 

I did not see display of wood crafts in the store inside. I wondered if how many people will be coming to the place accompanied by someone they know to be able to buy a wood craft. Is this a black market or what? Am I really seeing what I am supposed to see or these things are just being hidden by the friendliness of the people there?

People in Davisol are kind to visitors. They greet you good morning, good afternoon, good noon as the case maybe. My companion told me that the place is being developed into an eco-tourism area. Who wishes to develop the area as eco-tourism destination, is it the DENR or LGU or both of them? I don't know.

Man-made improvements in the shoreline
I saw two boats in the shoreline. One small color blue boat and one bigger boat with roof. My companion told me that the bigger boat belongs to DENR for purposes of island-hopping.

I inquired, if there is a school inside the community, who teaches the children? I was told DepEd teachers teach the children. Who gave money to construct schools? Where did they obtain a permit to construct a school building? Questions are difficult to answer. Sometimes it is fearful to ask questions for a person stranger to the area.

I wondered and kept a question in my mind. Was there perhaps a PDAF used to construct a structure in the area? My companion again told me that the community is a favorite pet for politicians in the area. He said that if politicians would love to be supported by Iglesia ni Kristo, in this area, politicians would love to be supported by Davisol. That's why politicians are allegedly generous in this community.

On our way from Lianga, I inquired again. Do they have land titles to settle in the area? Our companion-cum-guide told me that the community do not have papers to settle in the area because that is a declared timberland. What is a timber land? What happens if we continue to build structures in the timber land?

Who cares for Davisol community is they get washed out by a strong typhoon because they are fronting the sea? I learned that the whitish stone-like pads surrounding the lagoon are not rocks. These are corals. Corals get destroyed through the years. 

I learned of the story of an environment officer in a nearby area. I learned that she implements the law as it should be. She used a vehicle that is very similar to one of the service vehicles of the police. One day, the same service vehicle was ambushed. It was not her vehicle; it was the police. After the incident, she had to hold office in a nearby city and had to keep her whereabouts and land travels unknown.

From the words of an environment officer from Manila, he told me that when you're into forestry laws, you will get a lot of enemies. I inquired about who were given permits to do logging in the Philippines. He named one famous personality in Congress.  Who gave that company a permit? Whose administration? Whose environment secretary? 

Made of iron wood
I don't have a complete comprehension of what are timber lands and what are we supposed to do with timber lands. What happened to those timber lands? Where are they now?

Can a hotel look like a factory?

While gathering for the kick off ceremony of the Manila Bay rehabilitation at the Quirino Grandstand, I was surprised to see this.  ...