Davao Oriental steps up debris clearing, turns fallen coconut trees for livelihood

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DAVAO CITY, Feb. 24 -- In a bid to fast-track debris clearing in areas affected by Typhoon Pablo, nearly six million damaged coconut trees in Davao Oriental will be utilized as coco lumber, construction materials, handicraft and furniture.

This is a move also seen to accelerate rehabilitation and provide livelihood opportunities for 21,000 affected families, a statement from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.

“The damaged coconut trees hamper our relief and rehabilitation efforts,” said Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon, while explaining that the damaged trees also pose as safety hazards, which limit mobility of people, goods and services within the province.

Malanyaon announced the plan during a recent inter-agency meeting convened by the MinDA and attended by agencies tapped to support efforts to handle the removal, cutting, and utilization of coconut trunks into value-added products.

The governor stressed that such move is part of the province’s rehabilitation framework dubbed as “Building Back Better” or BBB as it transitions its relief and recovery efforts into reconstruction and development. MinDA, in coordination with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is providing technical support to the provincial government in the implementation of the rehabilitation program.

"Rehabilitation and reconstruction of Pablo-stricken areas require integration of all efforts to optimize use of available resources," said MinDA Chair Luwalhati Antonino, adding that “the government is doing all efforts to help typhoon victims get back to normal.”

More than 16,000 hectares of coconut farms in Davao Oriental were severely damaged by Typhoon Pablo, while more than 42,000 hectares were moderately damaged. A total of 84,476 hectares of coconut farms or approximately six million coconut trees were damaged during the typhoon.

The governor said that if left unattended, the damaged coconut trees will decompose in three months and will become home to coconut beetles, potential pests to the province’s remaining coconut farms and other agricultural products.

Malanyaon explained that even if the provincial government had completed its debris clearing operations, it does not have the authority to cut damaged coconut trees that withstood the typhoon.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the sole government agency mandated to cut the still-standing but damaged coconut trees, was reported to have already cleared 29,710 trees or 614,824 board feet of coconut lumber. The PCA distributed 40 units of chainsaw when clearing operations commenced in the municipalities of Baganga, Cateel, Boston, and Caraga.

“We badly need more units of chainsaw to completely remove the remaining coconut trunks,” said Freddie Bendulo, Davao Oriental Planning Coordinator.

He added that of the nearly six million coconut trees damaged by the typhoon, about 500,000 trees would be used in the construction of the 15,000 housing units for the typhoon victims.

“We welcome the creation of government clusters that will provide support in accelerating our clearing operations,” said Bendulo.

Government agency clusters were formed to provide support to Davao Oriental’s clearing and rehabilitation efforts. The first cluster, composed of PCA, and the Departments of Public Works and Highway, Social Welfare Development (DSWD), and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will handle the collection, cutting, and hauling of the coconut lumber.

The second cluster, comprised of PCA, Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Technical Education and Skills Development, Science and Technology (DOST), DENR, Labor and Employment, and Tourism will initiate processing and enterprise development of damaged coconut trees into coco lumber and other value-added products. The PCA committed to handle the warehousing of the processed coco lumber.

DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute also announced that it will establish a wood processing plant in the province, while DTI will work in linking the affected coconut growers with coco lumber retailers in coming up with enterprise development plans.

Other agencies present at the inter-agency meeting include the Department of Interior and Local Government, Office of Civil Defense, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, DA- Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Health, National Irrigation Administration, DENR-Environment Management Bureau, Department of Education as well official from the World Food Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) who pledged various type of assistance. (MinDA/PIA-Caraga)