By ALI G. MACABALANG
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has assured full support for the reforestation initiative of residents and stakeholders of Talaingod, a tribal town in Davao del Norte, painstakingly reeling for years from the ills of unregulated logging operation that had fueled communist insurgency in the locality.
MinDA Secretary Manny Piñol expressed the assurance after spending lately an episode of his agency’s “Beauty and Bounty of Mindanao” informative tour in some areas of Davao del Norte, particularly Talaingod municipality.
Piñol and his team engaged residents and officials of Davao del Norte led by Governor Edwin Jubahib and Talaingod Mayor Jonnie Libayao, who toured the visitors to various parts of the municipality, especially in vast maintain ranges that had been heavily logged over.
Gripped with 56.4 percent poverty incidence rate, Talaingod was created as town in 1991 and has an area of 74,000-hectares with a population of only 27,000 living in only three barangays, comprising mostly Ata-Manobo tribesmen. One of the three barangays is Sto Nino, which suffered the brunt of past irresponsible logging.
Sec. Piñol described what he witnessed as “a painful reminder of how tribal lands were stripped bare of forests trees by logging companies owned by the rich and powerful then abandoned leaving behind an impoverished people”.
In a statement, Piñol committed support to rally the local government units’ reforestation campaign through the Green Mindanao Project (GMP), a family-based tree farming program of MinDA for mass tree planting with high-value crops as intercrop.
He said the GMP for Talaingod will involve a financing package from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to build nurseries and fund livelihood programs such as high-value vegetable farming.
An off-taker of the lumber produced from the tree farms will also be engaged to ensure the sustainability of the GMP, he added.
“When the logging company, C. Alcantara and Sons (ALSONS) which operated in the area for decades pulled out in the early the late 1990s, the communist New People’s Army (NPA) exploited the tribal people’s anger and penetrated the area, establishing the controversial Salugpongan School,” Piñol recalled.
He said that freeing the town from the grip of the NPA did not come easy “as it took the sacrifices of many lives,” among them the former mayor of the town, Datu Jose Libayao.
Reports said Gov. Edwin Jubahib, Mayor Jonnie Libayao, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines had led a team of volunteers in a tree-planting activity to reforest the town with endemic species such as Narra, Molave, and Dao.
High-value vegetable farming has also been introduced to tribal families who are now selling their produce to high-end establishments in Tagum and this city, Piñol said.
“Mayor Libayao, with the help of Governor Jubahib, is developing the tourism potentials of the town starting with the Uraya Peak, a high point near the highway which connects Talaingod to San Fernando town in Bukidnon,” he added.
Piñol noted that from the Uraya Peak, tourists could see the vast span of Davao del Norte, including the Island Garden City of Samal across the Davao channel.
In his tour of Talaingod town, Sec. Pinol and his team also huddled with Ata-Manobo residents on their daily life concerns.
Out of the huddles, the MinDA chairman conceived another agency program called “adopt-a-tribal family” program he meant for more affluent sectors and LGUs in Mindanao to adopt and assist the Ata-Manobo families. (AGM)