Danding mourned in Mindanao province where he’s looked up to as mentor, investor | Inquirer News
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Danding mourned in Mindanao province where he’s looked up to as mentor, investor

DIGOS CITY—Davao Occidental in the southern part of Mindanao may appear to be too far off from Tarlac province in Central Luzon.

But the influence that tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco left transcended the distance, according to brother Claude and Franklin Bautista, governor and vice governor of the relatively new province of Davao Occidental carved out of Davao del Sur.

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Both described Cojuangco as a mentor and mourned his death last week.

“I am so proud to be a protege of the Big Boss,” said Franklin in a phone interview with Inquirer, using a term of endearment for Cojuangco among friends and followers.

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Franklin said he remembered that when he ran for mayor, Cojuangco was there to help. “He was very generous. I was so indebted to him, politically, economically,” Franklin said.

“His demise is so sudden, so untimely, considering that he could still have helped so many more,” he said.

Cojuangco used to frequent the province, where he owned some 1,800 hectares of land in Malita town, now capital of Davao Occidental.

Franklin said Cojuangco liked the place so much because it was very pristine. “Especially along the beach, where he built his rest house, he even sleeps and have visitors there,” he said. “He is a major contributor to the development of our province,” said Franklin.

Claude said he felt great sadness at the death of Cojuangc who was, for Claude, a “dear mentor and friend.”

“We mourn with you and celebrate the extraordinary life of this remarkable person,” Claude said in a social media post which offered condolences to the Cojuangco family.

Franklin said the Bautista family’s friendship with Cojuangco went way back to the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. That time, the brothers’ father, the late former Assemblyman Benjamin Bautista Sr., defended Cojuangco’s controversial coco levy fund in a privilege speech at the Batasang Pambansa.

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After the speech, Franklin said Cojuangco called up his father and “considered it a debt of gratitude.”

The Bautista patriarch invited Cojuangco to invest in Malita, which the late assembly man ruled as mayor.

Franklin said tracts of land in Malita’s Culaman village was offered for sale to Cojuangco.

“When he inspected the area, he liked the place, so, he bought it, and introduced banana, mango plantation,” said Franklin.

He said Cojuangco bought a total of 1,800 hectares of land in two areas at the village.

He also developed a 200-hectare prawn farm and put up the Aquacor processing plant in the area, the first in Mindanao, which provided employment and perked up economic activities, according to Franklin.

But the prawn farm was later converted into the site of the 300 megawatt SMC Global coal-fired power plant.

“The coal-fired power plant has improved the income of our town,” said Franklin. It qualified the town to apply to become a city, he said.

He said that for a town to be a city, the law required that the local government should generate a minimum income of P100 million on its own.

“With the coal-fired power plant as our biggest taxpayer, we have already exceeded this requirement,” said Franklin.

“I could even call this a Danding Cojuangco country because he helped finance practically all officials here, even before Davao del Sur was divided,” he said.

“He helped finance us, he was very generous, we owe a lot to him. All of us were only his products, we all benefited from his generosity,” said Franklin.

In contrast, farmers demanding the return of more than P100 billion in coco levy funds collected from them during the Marcos dictatorship felt aggrieved.

They expressed lament that Cojuangco, whom they claimed to have benefited from the coco levy funds, died, leaving them poorer, still asking for justice.

TSB

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TAGS: Coconut Levy, Danding, Investment, Land, politicians, Tycoon
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