Before the renowned Sea of Clouds between Pantukan and Maragusan became a big hit tourist destination in Davao de Oro, it used to be a place that no one dared to step into. Previously quartered by communist insurgents in the area, residents feared the municipalities’ highlands with full knowledge of the risks that the rebels posed to them. But more than just stealing peace, security, and safety from the people, insurgency furthermore hampers the provincial government’s plans of development in all areas in Davao de Oro that are faced with this very issue, and in great addition, it also discourages investors from supporting and investing in the province.

In its actions to put an end to insurgency in the province, the Provincial Local Government Unit (PLGU) of Davao de Oro, in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), rolled out the Oplan Pagbabago Program, its intervention program for former-rebels and their communities—the program which paved the way for tourism to blossom in barangay Araibo in Pantukan, and Mapawa in Maragusan.

The Oplan Pagbabago Program and its Farmer-entrepreneurs

Through the Community Support Program under Oplan Pagbabago, PLGU-Davao de Oro reaches out to the beneficiaries—comprised of communist insurgents who submitted themselves to authorities and the residents from their communities—by introducing them to new modes of livelihood and utilizing it to develop both the area and its economy.

Oplan Pagbabago Tunol Serbisyo 2019 – Barangay Araibo, Pantukan

Piloting in barangay Araibo, Pantukan in 2018, the program gained pace after the AFP successfully cleared Araibo’s highlands of the rebels who used to simply come and go in the area. The Community Support Program then commenced, teaching the beneficiaries basic knowledge on farming and tilling lands. This skill, which became a hobby, turned into one of the residents’ staple sources of food, and eventually even their living. Earning from selling their own grown vegetables, which are known for being especially fresh for growing in Araibo’s cold temperatures, the residents who previously lived in fear from the danger posed by the rebels were finally handed not just peace, but also the opportunity to become farmer-entrepreneurs. Recognizing their fruits, the PLGU helped further by endorsing their produce to wholesalers from different markets. This led to the promotion of agro-tourism in the area, the construction of Farm-to-Market Roads (FMRs) which doubly made the place easily accessible to tourists, and the program’s extension to other municipalities in the province. Then finally, from a place that the people used to be afraid of, the shared highlands of Pantukan and Maragusan became not just province-wide, but even a nationwide top tourist destination.

Peace and Development through Tourism

It was the influx of tourists and the increasing number of visits in the place that ultimately kept the rebels from returning to the mountains, which finally led to peace and development to both Araibo and Mapawa. Jobs were generated, roads were constructed, and eco-parks and agro-tourism establishments were created to promote the richness of the lands’ natural resources. In addition, the place also became known for having cycling trails, firing ranges, and vast meat and poultry productions.

The economic jolt definitely caught the attention of numerous investors. At present, the local economy of both Pantukan and Maragusan has become dynamic, providing plenty of opportunities to the residents who are now restaurant owners, food suppliers, travel guides, transportation providers, entrepreneurs, and many others.

In addition, the newly constructed Potable Bulk Water System was turned over to the care and responsibility of the municipality of Maragusan just last month in July 2020, a project that would supply potable water to roughly five-thousand households in barangays Mapawa, Coronobe, Poblacion, and Mauswagon in Maragusan. This movement also goes hand in hand with the PLGU’s desire to reach out to every far-flung, Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) in the province, to be able to include also indigenous peoples in the province’s rise, while simultaneously offering them opportunities to contribute to the economy and development of their societies.

To a Peaceful Province

Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy currently plans to expand the successful case in Pantukan and Maragusan throughout the entire province, to build peace through means of tourism, community support, and development; with his next target destinations being the Dagpang Hills in Mabini, the Bawani Peak in Mawab, Buko-buko sa Bao in Pantukan, Tagmanacao Falls in Maco, and the Amakan Crater in New Leyte. Together with the AFP and the PLGU’s constituents running Oplan Pagbabago, Davao de Oro will not stop working until the peace that belongs to the province and its people is fully restored.

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