OpinionsBow and ArrowAnother look at my Pantawan

Another look at my Pantawan

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About a year ago, environmentalists, youth groups, and some concerned residents raised alarm over a proposed 174-hectare reclamation project in Dumaguete City.

Prominent Dumaguete scientists and academics warned that the project will directly affect marine protected areas in the city, including the alleged destruction of the habitat of “more than 200 species of fish” where local fisherfolks depend on for livelihood and subsistence.

While critics decried the alleged haste and detrimental effects of the proposed venture, supporters claimed that the massive project will bring the much-needed jobs and investment to the city.

Friends, schoolmates and classmates, families, and even relatives were divided over the issue on the proposed 5G-equipped “Smart City” islands, as envisioned to be a mixed-use commercial and residential area featuring malls, condominiums, a hospital, a business hub, a docking port for a planned Dumaguete Yacht Club, ports for fishermen, and an esplanade.

A few months, however, before and after the 2022 local elections, the discussion about it simmered down. Critics claimed victory, as the local administration seemed to have called the project off because of the opposition, and local Council was captured by the Opposition who had earlier supported the project.

On the other hand, supporters of the reclamation said that majority of the Dumaguetenos must have actually favored the project as the Mayor who broached the concept was eventually re-elected. They took the election as a plebiscite between both contending groups.

The issue, however, is still very much alive, as discussed by a No-to-174 activist in a national event on Jan. 14 this year.

This prompted me to have a second look at Pantawan I and 2, an infrastructure of the City that has similarities with the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project.

I was one of those who supported the idea of a reclamation to make space for building two islands, anchoring my testimony before the City Council then that if the only basis was job-generation or employment, then my answer would immediately be a big YES.

The main reason behind my position was my own experience as an executive of the Labor Department.

Job-creation is a function of investment, and the latter is an outcome of good governance, a collective effort of both the public and the private sectors in making the locality conducive for investment.

I also believe in the decentralization of infrastructure projects for equitable distribution and access to services and economic opportunities among the different regions in the country.

We need to develop other growth areas aside from Metro Manila and Metro Cebu to decongest the urban areas, and spread socio-economic development to other undeveloped, yet potential centers, or nucleus of regional geographical development.

However, I cautioned the administration in my presentation that the Opposition should be listened to, and that government agencies assigned to review and approve the project should look deep into the legal, environmental, and moral implications of the project, aside from the economic and social considerations.

Actually, supporters of the project were with me in saying that it will bring much-needed investment and jobs to Dumaguete, making it competitive with other urban areas such as Manila and Cebu which had earlier reclaimed land from the sea.

My first full evening view of the Pantawan was when I was invited to witness an event in the reclaimed area to usher in new year of 2022. It was the culmination of a year with various public discussions and debates over the proposed 174-hectare reclamation, opposed by local leaders and prestigious institutions including Silliman University and the Roman Catholic Church.

I found that evening quite memorable, not because of the fireworks nor of the live music, but because of the potentials of the reclaimed City property.

While I respect the opinion of those who oppose the project, and don’t seem to find a single good thing about it, I have asked the question, “Unsa man gyud kaha ang dako nga problema sa Pantawan?”

Social events and other cultural activities are being held in the People’s Park, along the famous Rizal Boulevard, that so far continue to attract health and wellness afficionados, sports enthusiasts, and people who simply want to relax and enjoy the scenery of the Pantawan, even as its development is still in progress.

It has become a place for locals and tourists alike who want to chill or jog there by sunrise or at sunset, and the best place among other public places in the City for family bonding, especially during evenings.

Major community social events like concerts, and rallies have been conveniently held there, as it provides more space, compared to other public venues in the City. A lively place to walk around, shop for bargains, and watch people from all walks of life obviously enjoying it there especially on weekends.

The Pantawan has become the perfect place where small-time vendors could sell their cottage industry products, home-made foodstuff, and other local wares. You can find many ambulant enterprising individuals offering massage and reflexology, manicure and pedicure.

For me, the Pantawan is something like a levelling scheme between the affluent businessmen and the peddlers selling balot, etc. just to make both ends meet.

The place has contributed to a wider distribution of the money moving within the City, and has created ripples to other income-earning artisans and service providers.

The Pantawan has become a better option to Quezon Park for residents to experience the beautiful mornings doing physical exercises or spending the evenings under the moon while listening to music and having small talk with friends.

The sports activities in the designated areas bring together sports enthusiasts for friendly competitions, and local spectators from the different barangays.

The Pantawan at the Rizal Boulevard has provided families, friends, and guests of all ages the best venue for outdoor exercises, entertainment, sports, picnics, rest and recreation.

It is literally a porch of this collective home of gentle and peaceful Dumaguetnons.

The additional expansion of the reclamation towards the Tinago area is surely protecting the houses along the seawall from the big waves, and therefore, protecting lives and their livelihoods.

Yes, many unsavory comments about the Pantawan deserve to be looked into, including the study of its dreaded environmental impacts, but also the positive socio-economic impacts it could bring in to Dumaguete.

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Author’s email: [email protected]


 

 

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