Davao de Oro Representative Ruwel Peter Gonzaga has admitted he and his wife, former associate justice of the Court of Appeals Dorothy Gonzaga, are co-owners of a controversial P300M high-end inland resort built on 200 hectares of ancestral doman land in Maco rown in Davao de Oro.

Several weeks after intensive media commentaries and speculations over his alleged involvement in the multi-million-peso New Barili Mountain View Resort , Gonzaga admitted that he and his wife are part of a corporation behind the project.

“Kanang New Barili, korporasyon na. Gidala nako akong mga amigo diha nga taga-Tagum, negosyante. Naghimo mi ug isa ka korporasyon, Kaming Dotdot ug ako kabahin mi sa mga tag-iya (New Barili is a corporation with my businessman friends from Tagum City, Dotdot and I are part of the corporation), ” Gonzaga revealed in an interview with a Tagum City-based FM radio station.

“Dotdot” is Dorothy, Gonzaga’s wife.

“Kung moingon si Chiongkee nga ang New Barili ako na, bakak man gyod na. Kay naa koy papeles nga ipakita nga dili na amo (If Chiongkee claims the resort is mine alone, that is a lie. I have papers to show), said Gonzaga.

“Chiongkee” is former governor and now senior Provincial Board member Arturo Uy , who is staging a comeback bid in the gubernatorial race in the May 9 polls under the banner of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) of presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Gonzaga, even as he is the Davao Region chair of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino -Laban (PDP-Laban) chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte, has fielded his wife Dorothy against Uy, as official candidate of the opposition party Reporma chaired by Duterte critic Davao del Norte First District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.

Uy and Gonzaga are long-time political allies but split up ahead of the May polls.

In the radio interview, Gonzaga’s statements were pregnant with hints that Uy fired public and media interest over his reported ownership of the controversial New Barili resort.

“Moingon sad si Chiongkee nga kanang propridad diha akoa, mali sad na kay korporasyon na. dili na amo kay sa IP man na. CADT man na. So nangayo ko ug FPI C sa mga lumad ug gitagaan ko nila. So naa mi memorandum of agreement dinha sa korporasyon. Isa ra ko sa mga tag-iya. Ug ang mga lumad nagsulti nga kami pa lang ang unang naay ing-ana nga papeles sa tibook probinsya. amo gyong gisunod ang proseso (Chiongkee’s claim that the land property is mine is false because it belongs to the corporation, covered by approval of the indigenous people in compliance with processes that we followed), said Gonzaga .

Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA) Free Prior Informed Consent (FPCI) of the Indigenous People (IP) is required of any development in an ancestral domain covered by a Certificate of Ancestral Domain TiTle (CADT) awarded to a tribe by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in coordination with the National Commission on Indigeous People ( NCIP).

Accordingly, the New Barili resort in a mountain area in Maco municipality covered by a CADT has also stirred controversy in the IP communities with reports that some IP leaders questioned a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) over a 25-year lease agreement for P1-million, between a group of tribal leaders and Gonzaga that awarded to the congressman 200 hectares carved out of their CADT.

In his tirades against Uy, Gonzaga questioned why he is being singled out when the resort is corporation-owned.

“Daghan daw kaayo ko ug kwarta kay kadevelop ko ug New Barili. Mali na kay korporasyon na. Ngano man nga ako may bokbokon nimo Chiongkee nga korporasyon man na (They say I have oodlesof money because I was able to develop New Barili. This is wrong because the resort is owned by a corporation. Why are you mauling me, Chiomgkee?).

But Gonzaga also dismissed the allegation that he is poor and has no resources to build a resort such as the New Barili complex, bragging that he and his wife are lawyers.

“Moingon mo pobre mi. Hinummdomi nga mga abogado, abogada mi. Asawa nako justice , ako abogado man ko (You say we are poor. Remember that we are lawyers. M ywife is a justice), said Gonzaga .

The admission of ownership by Gonzaga, who is seeking reelection in the race to Congress in Davao de Oro’s Second District, may not end public and media interest over it’s potentials as a corruption issue. Questions are raised over how Gonzaga managed to undertake such an expensively huge project.

The inquisitive public and local media in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro have raised questions over compliance of the Barili resort with requirements from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) such as the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Environmental impact Study (EIS) and business and building permits.

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