CARAGA, DAVAO ORIENTAL — Traveling on foot for hours while carrying heavy loads of goods and crops will soon be a thing of the past for the residents of the roadless, hinterland Sitio of Butay as the provincial government formally started the groundworks for the opening of the access road leading to this far-flung community.
On Thursday, October 29, 2020, Governor Nelson Dayanghirang led the historic groundbreaking ceremony of the road opening/piloting project covering 9.7 kilometers from the National Highway Junction Bantao, Sitio Maglahus in Barangay Sobrecarey to Sitio Butay in Barangay Pichon, Caraga, Davao Oriental.
Governor Dayanghirang says the project, which will allow four by four vehicles and off-road motorcycles to reach the sitio, is set to benefit 120 families or around 800 individuals belonging to the Mandaya indigenous community.
While the provincial government has funded the project, partners from the private sector also pitched in their support. The private contractor Ulticon Builders lent the province one unit of bulldozer for free to augment its available heavy equipment deployed in the area.
“Dili nato panaugon ang ekwipo mintras wala pa nahuman ang kalsada (We will not recall the heavy equipment deployed here until the project is completed),” Governor Dayanghirang said, making the residents to cheer for joy.
For its future development, Governor Dayanghirang is eyeing to convert the road section, as soon as it is completed, from being a barangay road to a provincial road. He said this will help ensure funding for road maintenance and will also make the road qualified for possible financial support from the national government for upgrading and concreting.
Provincial Engineer’s Office OIC Head Engr. Ruel Dumadag said that once the road is converted to a provincial road, it will be enrolled in the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Conditional Matching Grant Program (CMGP) for possible funding.
For the residents of Sitio Butay, the opening of the road to their hinterland and roadless community is a dream-come-true as it is poised to change their lives for the better.
“Dako gyud ang among pasalamat sa Ginoo ug sa gobyerno sa pag tan-aw sa mga tao sa Sitio Butay — gikan sa mga bata ug tigulang. Nag antos mi sulod sa gikan sa kanami kaumpoan gumikan sa among panginabuhi nga layo kami sa market, layo kami sa lungsod, sa doktor ug tambalan. Karon, dako kanami pasalamat. Kanami henerasyon nagpasalamat sa kahitasan ug sa gobyerno nga mao nakakaita ug nagtubag sa kanami pangandoy sa banwa sa Butay. (We give our big thanks to God and to the government for looking at the people of Sitio Butay– from the young to the old. We endured for many generations because of our livelihood is far from the market, we are far from the town, from the doctor and the hospital. Now, we are very thankful. This generation thank God and the government who answered our prayers),” said Modesto Sayawan Talidasan, a Limpong or Tribal Elder of Sitio Butay.
Sitio Butay, one of the 13 sub-villages covered under the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title-01, is the farthest sitio in the municipality of Caraga. Nestled on top of a mountain in Barangay Pichon, the sitio is cut off from the rest of the CADT community by the rapids of the Caraga River on one side and the dense forest of Bantao on the other. Both trails leading to the sitio are filled with steep and dangerous slopes which serve as the villagers’ only path to the main community.
For years, residents here whose main livelihood is selling abaca fiber are forced to walk hours through unsafe mountain trails. Residents here as young as eight years old would walk through treacherous mountain trails while carrying a heavy load of stripped abaca fibers which they sell at the village.
With the soon-to-be-completed road, villagers look at the future with optimism and hope.
Where the Road Begins, Insurgency Ends
CADT-01 Tribal Chieftain Christine Banugan says the project will not only improve the lives of her people but will also help the government’s peacebuilding efforts and fostering inclusive, sustainable development in their Mandaya community which, like other Indigenous People’s communities, are vulnerable to armed conflict and terrors inflicted by the Communist-Terrorist group operating in the hinterlands.
She says the opening of the road means everything for her people. “As what we always say: Where road begins, insurgency ends, this road will make an impact in our efforts in building peace and security,” said Chieftain Banugan.
Aside from the private sector who offered help, the project pushed through with the help of key offices and agencies.
For the seamless and smooth implementation of the road opening project, the Barangay Local Government Units of Pichon and PM Sobrecarey took charge of the social preparation while the Tribal Community led the negotiation with the affected residents in securing the Road Right of Way.
Chieftain Banugan said that all fourteen lot owners from Sitio Butay and three from Sitio Maglahus who will be affected by the project have already signified their support for the implementation of their community’s long-dreamed road project.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has secured the Free Prior and Informed Consent for the project which is bound to affect the timberland area covering the ancestral lands of the Mandaya.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has also thrown its support to the promising project as it committed to provide support such as the provision of seedlings and other livelihood support to the residents.
The affected trees that stand on the ancestral domain are also being taken into consideration. Concerned authorities ensure the proper inventory, custody, and disposal of the trees. By Karen Lou Deloso/Photos By Eden Jhan Licayan