Posts Tagged ‘Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport’

by Rey Salita of Manila Standard Today

Aetas begging on the streets during the holidays are met with amusement and some degree of curiosity.

We frown on them when they use makeshift musical instruments in an attempt to provide their potential benefactors some entertainment.

Only a few of us urban dwellers appreciate the fact that the problems facing these indigenous peoples go deeper than cultural discrimination. Indeed, being seen as tribal novelty and comic sidekicks are the least of their concerns.

How many of us are aware of the displacement and the injustice—let alone the indignity of subsisting on coins doled to them during the holidays —these families endure?

We know land grabbing and agrarian disputes happen in the movies. Landed tyrants lord it over poor farmers in more ways than one. In the real world, however, land grabbing is performed by an unlikely villain—our very own government.

The latest casualties in this real-life drama are some 3,000 Dumagats—the Aeta bands in the northern Sierra Madre—in Aurora province who are being evicted from their ancestral land by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority. The zone expands to 12,427 hectares, covering most of the municipality of Casiguran, including sitios Dibet, Esteves, San Ildefonso, Cozo, and Culat.

This special economic zone is perfectly legal like in all perfect cinematic plots. It was created by Republic Act 10083 filed in 2007 by no less than Senator Edgardo Angara with Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, his son in the House of Representatives, and endorsed by the senator’s sister, Aurora Gov.  Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.

That the Dumagats seem to be in for the show of their lives.

Fr. Edu Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Actions of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines says the setting is rife. “Whatever you’ll find in the movies;” Gariquez says, are here. “We have deceit and violence.”

Gariguez says the farmer-occupants were never consulted when the economic zone was being conceptualized.

The area is made up of rich arable and fishing grounds that it’s a waste of human capital to convert the 12,000-hectare area to an export zone, the priest adds.

Local journalists were also reported to have been harassed when they tried to inform the public about the proposal to convert the land and the establishment of the freeport three years ago.

“Yes, now that it’s a law, occupants are left with no choice but to move to the APECO’s relocation sites. The problem is that these sites are under the Comprehensive Land Reform Program and already have beneficiaries. So what will happen next is that re-settlers will be evicted out of those lands as soon as they are relocated.” Gariguez adds.


Very little is known about the Aeta that most do not even know their groups. But the Aeta of the Sierra Madre are widely referred to as the Agta in Quezon and Aurora provinces. To the far north in Cagayan Valley region, they are known as Dumagats.

The Aeta of Central Luzon was called by the Tagalogs as Ita; the Pampangos, Baluga; and the Zambals, Ayta.

Atrocities against the Aeta are incessant through the centuries that it is quite alarming to see such violations still happening in the 21st century.

When the Americans came to colonize the islands in the early 20th century, their commonwealth government instituted the Bureau of non-Christian Tribes.  In Cagayan province, an archived account detailing the actions of the first commissioner of this bureau documented a “development program”. This program established an orphanage for non-orphans that took away Agta children from their parents with the view that they were “being raised in the most deplorable way of life.”

Agta children were rounded up to live permanently in the orphanage where they were taught “civilities,” as the commissioner wrote in his reports. He said what he found in his post was a “newly found tribe of cannibals in the upper Sierra Madre.”

The commissioner write in his memoirs: “…the most primitive, wild, fierce and dangerous group… a generation from the stone age… having no clothes…fond of eating raw meat…children unwanted and unloved…ignorant of days, weeks and months, as well as years… idolatry and adultery are supreme…”

It was unknown if there were children who survived this captivity but there were oral stories passed on to generations among the Agta that many suffered and died. There were also a number of Agta mothers that were reportedly shot and killed outside the orphanage.

The Aeta remained obscured in the sidelines of the mainstream Filipino society that perhaps there were more atrocities that were committed against them as history unfolded.

During the fighting in the Second World War for the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, there were Aeta bands that aided wounded soldiers and participated in the guerilla warfare against the Japanese.

In the final air battle that followed the retaking of the Clark Airfield in Pampanga, the Aeta villages in the mountains surrounding the contested military installation played a critical role in rescuing downed American pilots.

As a show of gratitude, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific and the United States Armed Forces to the Far East, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, signed a memorandum granting exclusive privilege to the Aeta to scavenge freely in all American base dumps in the country.

The earliest documentation of feudal agriculture in the Agta territory was in the 1910s in Casiguran, Quezon, when a US Army officer took several Agta men and chained them together to clear a track of forest where the soldier intended to farm. In July 14, 1923, the Casiguran Municipal Council also passed a formal resolution, asking the national government to “suspend the advance” of the Agta farmlands within their “non-Christian” reservation out of fear that the “Christian” townsfolk will loose trade in the future.

Empowered with that resolution, many Unats charged in the forest reservation and threatened the Agtas to vacate their clearings as the government was forbidding them land ownership. The clearings were then inhabited by the Unats and more maneuvers were taken to keep the Agtas dependent on them that the Unats may extract cheap labor and lopsided trade with the Agtas.

The insurgency problem in the countryside during the 1960s also gave the Unats more reason to drive away the Agtas from their clearings with the help of the military. Tales were woven that Agtas of a particular hamlet, who have already cleared and are tilling a sizable forestland, supports the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as assassins and spies, prompting the military to be suspicious and take direct actions against them with bloody results.

Next time you happen to pass by an Aeta roaming the streets, remember: you don’t know even half the story.



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by Gerry Geronimo

How could he have been so unmindful? “Brazen” is the more appropriate label for the behavior, or better still, the more visceral colloquialism, “k—l-m-ks”; but Christmas dawn masses begin tonight and neither adjective is consistent with the clearly made-up opening stories of Matthew and Luke.

Hence, I settle for the least understandable of the three to describe how the otherwise deliberate Senator Edgardo Angara heedlessly transformed himself, chameleon-like, as the need arises.

That show of true colors occurred at the hearing of the Subcommittee “B” hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance held on the 11th of November. The first resource person to talk was Deputy Administrator Ramon Fernando of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco), who made a presentation, obviously prepared for the occasion, “to present the progress of the development of the ecozone.” He was the first to be called because, according to Senator Angara who was the presiding chairman of the subcommittee, “Kaming mga taga-Aurora alam naming ang development niyan pero maraming hindi pa nakakaalam.” Translated roughly, the expression of condescending superiority says “We from Aurora are familiar with the economic development at Apeco; but there are many who up to now do not know.”

If I may hazard a guess, among those whom Senator Angara could have referred to as still ignorant was his fellow Senator Serge Osmeña who had asked for this hearing (the second on the subject) to clarify certain issues which were not asked during the first.

Indeed Senator Serge Osmeña seemed not to know, or more accurately, needed to know too many things about Apeco. For instance, about 30 minutes from the start of the hearing that was recorded at 9:50 in the morning, the good deputy administrator Fernando explained the good works that they at the Apeco were doing for the Dumagats in the area. He proclaimed that they had trained 12 Dumagats with the DENR and “hired them as forest rangers to make sure that there is no poaching of the resources within the peninsula.” What they did with the rest of the Dumagats, who might have lived in the area, was left unanswered.

Fernando at a certain point said, “So, this peninsula [San Ildefonso Peninsula] is about 12,000 hectares worth of rights, ’no, [roughly equivalent to “You know”] 43 percent of the rights had been paid for and we are hoping that with the passing of the budget, we could get another –’’ Senator Osmeña, the unknowing one, interrupted with a question. He asked:

“How much did you pay for the Dumagats per hectare? You are talking about 43 percent of San Ildefonso. That is Phase II.” At this point, Senator Angara let the cat out of the bag. He became both chairman, whose duty was to preside and determine who got to speak and how long, and, without relinquishing his chair, also a resource person.

Probably worried that the good deputy administrator would not give a good enough answer, Senator Angara, as the record reflects, said “Maybe I will intervene. What we bought–”

Before Senator Angara could complete his sentence, Senator Osmeña, the searcher, remarked, “The true chief executive officer of Apeco is about to speak.” In an earlier era of delicadeza, that would have been considered an insult and would have triggered a challenge to a duel at dawn. But, this is the Philippine Senate 2010 and what is done at dawn often has nothing to do with honor. Senator Angara responded, “That’s correct.” No attempt to even feign offense; surely, casually and simply, an admission.

And not just a mere admission. It was coupled with justification. Senator Angara continued, “Because that is why the progress is fast. What we paid for and the board paid for is the surface rights of the forest concessionaire because this is a forest concessionaire in the entire peninsula on the theory that if it is brought under the jurisdiction of Apeco, there is a better chance of protecting it because Apeco is going to be a continuing entity with one of the principal mandates being to preserve and conserve, the natural environment. So, we did pay for the Dumagats because we will, in fact, preserve their settlements in San Ildefonso, but we paid for the surface rights of the timber concessionaire.”

But Senator Osmeña is incorrigible, not to say very dense. Didn’t he just then hear Senator Angara, who had only seconds ago confessed to be the “true executive officer of Apeco,” say that they had paid for the Dumagats? Obviously, Senator Osmeña has been having hearing problems.

He asked the good deputy administrator to confirm that Apeco paid for the surface rights of the timber concessioner, whose name apparently was Joselito Ong. Still hard of hearing, Senator Osmeña asked him, “So, you paid Joselito Ong, you did not pay the Dumagats.”

Mr. Ramon Fernando had to admit, “No, your honor.” Senator Osmeña was still slow to understand. He asked, obviously, to give the good administrator a chance to retract, “You paid Joselito Ong.” Meekly, the good deputy administrator had to confirm, and say “Joselito Ong.”

Senator Osmeña then became a bit curious. He continued asking, “How much did you pay Joselito Ong?” The good administrator, who had to look at his records, was back stopped by Mr. Valencia who supplied the acquisition cost of the 12,000 hectares at P120 million payable in three years. Mr. Valencia, apparently to control the damage, quickly added “we only paid about 50 million as of 2010.”

What came out clearly from Senator Osmeña’s questioning was that under Senator Angara, the admitted true executive officer of Apeco, the government got itself indebted to Joselito Ong for P120 million less the P50 million paid for 2010. For what? Before his subordinates could mess things up, Senator Angara declared again “No. Let me again intervene…”

A number of eyebrows have been raised by the way Senator Angara blithely moved from chairman to resource person. But in this season of ham, suffice it to conclude, for now, that Apeco, really, has a lot to be thankful for. Amongst them is that it has is a Senator Edgardo Angara who, as its true chief executive, is a most alert defender and advocate.

For feedback, e-mail thetrustguru@gmail.com.

From: http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideBusiness.htm?f=2010/december/15/business6.isx&d=2010/december/15

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By Ducky Paredes

SEE trouble ahead. The news that the Department of Finance (DOF) wants to downgrade both the Aurora-Pacific Economic Zone Authority (APECO) and the Bataan Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) into just special economic zones without “free port” status and tax privileges that make importations into these ports tax-free.

These two were created by legislation – Republic Acts 10083 and 9728.

The Department of Finance (DOF) say that the tax-free status enjoyed by the two economic free ports costs at least P3 billion in foregone revenues. So, the DOF wants APECO and BEPZA reverted back to their previous status of special economic zones subject to certain taxes provided under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority law. As for APECO, which is, in addition, listed as a non-profit GOCC, the DOF says: “This is tantamount to exempting the said GOCC from tax and dividend declaration. This is inconsistent with the policy of level playing field in the government corporate sector, and the expressed policies of government on the tax and dividend treatment of GOCCs.”

Don’t people in the DOF know that when there are havens such as these, there must be someone powerful behind them?

Says the DOF: “Free ports pose huge challenge to customs authorities. Because of the ‘free flow’ of all goods into the free ports and non-imposition of taxes and duties, the free ports become very vulnerable to smuggling activities that cause a heavy drain on our revenue stream and pose unfair competition to our domestic industries.

“The country does not need another free port to develop growth areas, but more infrastructure to be built by the national government.”

APECO, now practically run by one political family, and BEPZA used to be “merely” special economic zones.

The old Bataan special economic zone was under the administrative supervision of PEZA. But recent laws gave both the status of a free ports, thus, making all importations into the zone, including consumer goods, tax and duty free.

What the DOF wants is fine; just another step that needs to be taken in leveling the playing field. But, isn’t there still another one of these north of Aurora? Why isn’t that one — where all the second-hand cars from Japan ender the country –being noticed by the DOF. If the DOF has noticed it, why is it not being mentioned?


Read more: http://www.malaya.com.ph/12012010/edducky.htm


Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@yahoo.com



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Sulat Pastoral Hinggil sa APECO

‘Namamaalam na ang gabi at malapit nang lumiwanag.  Layuan na natin ang lahat ng gawang  masama at italaga ang sarili sa paggawa ng mabuti.’ (Roma, 13,11)

Masidhi ang aming panawagan bilang inyong mga Obispo at Kaparian ng Prelatura ng Infanta – Aurora sa inyo  mga mananampalataya na paghandaan ang pagsilang ni Hesus sa sabsaban.  Ang larawan ng karukhaan ng Diyos at pakikisandiwaan niya sa mga dukha.

Regalo ng Diyos ang Pasko para sa ating lahat, mayaman at mahirap.  Niloob niya ito upang maging mapanagutang katiwala tayo ni Hesus para sa isa’t isa lalo na sa mga dukha.  Sa yugtong ito sa kasaysayan ng Prelatura ng Infanta – Aurora, maging mapanagutang katiwala tayo para sa mga biktima ng APECO (Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport) sa Casiguran, Aurora.

Nakarating na sa Senado ang ating laban laban sa APECO.  Bilang bunga ng
sama-sama nating pananalangin at sa gabay ng Espiritu Santo, maraming
katotohanan ang nabunyag at naisiwalat sa liwanag:

o   Walang konsultasyon na nangyari para sa pagsasaalang-alang sa mga biktima tulad ng mga magsasaka, mangingisda at katutubo bago ilunsad ang proyekto.

o   Hindi makatarungan ang Batas APECO dahil nilalabag nito ang Local Government Code, ang Batas Katutubo, ang Batas CARP at CARPER at Batas Mangingisda.

o   Maaari ding nilalabag nito ang mga Batas Pangkalikasan, Batas Laban Pandarambong at Batas Laban sa Corruption.

o   Walang malinaw na record ng mga kagastusan ang proyekto na sinuri ng COA para sa makatarungan pagtatala ng pera ng bayan.

Damahin natin at maki-isang diwa tayo sa mga biktima.  Ito ang kahulugan ng
Pasko na dumama sa kalalagayan ng mga tao lalo ng mga magsasaka na nangangambang mawalan ng sakahan at ikabubuhay.  Malilimitahan ang lawak ng karagatan at hindi na malayang makapangingisda ang mga mangingisda.  Nababalisa ang mga katutubo na mawalan ulit ng lehitimong tirahan sa pag-agaw sa kanilang Lupaing Ninuno.

Marami sa kanila ang nalinlang ng proyeto dahil sa kawalan ng kaalaman.
Itinatago ng mga nanunungkulan ng buong katotohanan.  Nabubuhay din sa takot ang maraming karaniwang tao dahil sa paggamit ng kapangyarihan, napatatahimik sila at napipilit umayon sa kagustuhan ng mga makapangyarihan kapalit ang suhol na pera at pananakot.

Hindi rin natin kinalilimutan ang pagbobomba kay Fr. Joefran Talaban sa kumbento sa Brgy. Bianoan, Casiguran, Aurora.  Naniniwala kami na paraan ito ng pagsupil sa mga lumalaban sa proyektong APECO.  Patuloy pa rin ang maling propaganda laban kay Fr. Jofran sa mga ipinapangalat at mga idinidikit na papel.

Maging taga-saan man kami, bilang mga tinawag na manindigan para gampanan ang papel ni Hesus na Mabuting Pastol sa Hilagang Quezon at Aurora, niyayakap namin ang kalalagayan ng mga biktima ng APECO -  ‘hindi tumatakas ang mabuting pastol kung dumarating man ang mga asong-gubat’ (Juan 10.12-13). Nananawagan kaming isabuhay natin ang Mabuting Balita ni Hesus para sa mga biktima ng APECO:

1.    Sa mga nasilaw sa proyektong APECO: tayo nang ituwid ang ating landas. Mapagpatawad  ang Diyos!  Lilipas ang lahat maliban lamang ang pagmamahal sa Diyos at sa kapwa.  ‘Darating ang anak ng Tao sa oras na hindi ninyo nalalaman.’ (Mateo 24.44).

2.    Sa mga natatakot manindigan at nagagamit sa proyektong APECO: palakasin ang pananampalataya at pakinggan si Juan Bautista.  ‘Magsisi na kayo at talikuran ang inyong kasalanan sapagkat malapit nang dumating ang kaharian ng langit’ (Mateo 3.2).  Manindigan para sa katotohanan.

3.      Sa mga magsasaka, mga mangingisda at mga katutubo: kayo ang may dalang liwanag na tatanglaw sa mga naghahanap sa katotohanan at katarungan sa inyong mga pakikibaka laban sa proyektong APECO para sa kinabukasan ng inyong pamilya at angkan.  ‘Sumainyo ang kapayaan!  Kung paanong isinugo ako ng Ama, isinusugo ko rin kayo’ (Juan 20.21).

4.      Sa lahat ng taong may mabuting kalooban: isang malaking hakbang tungo sa Daang Matuwid ng Pilipinas ang ating pakikiisa sa buhay ng mga magsasaka, mangingisda at mga katutubo sa Casiguran, Aurora.  Magka-isa at mag-sandiwaan tayo para sa  tunay na pag-papaunlad ng buhay ng mga tao at ng kalikasan.

5.      Sa ating Presidente Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino: ang aming pagsisikap na matigil ang proyetong APECO ay aming ambag sa pagsusulong ng inyong Daang Matuwid. Tulungan ninyo kaming makamit ang katarungan para sa mga biktima ng proyektong APECO.

6.      Sa mananampalataya sa Prelatura ng Infanta – Aurora: kailangan natin ang malalim na panalangin.  Magka-isa tayo sa pagdadalisay ng ating lipunan at MSK tungo sa ganap na katuparan ng pangarap ng Ama ng bagong langit at bagong lupa.

Sa pagharap natin sa hamon ng ating pananampalataya lagi nating hinihingi ang
lakas at paggabay ng Espiritu Santo kaya lagi tayong nananalig at
nananampalataya na ibibigay ng Diyos sa atin ang liwanag na papawi sa dilim.
Tibayan natin ang ating pananampalataya dahil sinabi Hesus:  ‘Ako’y laging
kasama ninyo hangang sa katapusan ng panahon. (Mateo 28.20)

Para sa Kaparian ng Prelatura ng Infanta – Aurora:

Obispo Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD, DD

05 Nobyembre 2010

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Radioman links threat to views on Apeco aired on his program

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:12:00 11/19/2010

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—A man threw an explosive device at the house of a radio broadcaster in Baler, Aurora, on Tuesday night, and police said no one was hurt. But the mild explosion punctured the door of the house of Bernie Rada in Barangay Buhangin.

“Definitely, it’s not a grenade. The damage doesn’t show a grenade-type of explosion,” Senior Supt. Rosve Manulid, Aurora police director, said by phone.

Rada, 40, was in Manila at the time of the attack. His wife and three children were unhurt, Manulid said.

A neighbor saw the suspect near Rada’s house a few minutes before the explosion, according to initial police reports.

Rada, in a telephone interview, said he suspected that the blast was a retaliation for the Tuesday episode of his show “Morning Pasada” on Radyo Natin.

“I tackled Apeco (Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport). I first read anti-Apeco comments. I then read pro-Apeco comments. I think that drew trouble for me,” he said.

Apeco, spanning nearly 13,000 hectares in Casiguran, was created by a law initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.

Churches and nongovernment groups opposed the project.

Rada said this was the first threat he had received in his 18 years as a broadcaster.

In May 2005, gunmen shot dead Philip Mendoza, publisher of the community newspaper Starline that tackled corruption of public funds for victims of killer landslides in 2004.

In June this year, men attacked the convent where Fr. Joefran Talaban lives. Talaban supported the campaign against Apeco. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

from: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view/20101119-304031/Radioman-links-threat-to-views-on-Apeco-aired-on-his-program

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A White Elephant?

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 11/13/2010

WORSE than C-5.” That is how architect Felino Palafox describes the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) in Casiguran, Aurora.

C-5 is the controversial P400-million road extension project linking the South Luzon Expressway to Sucat Road in Parañaque and funded by a double entry in the 2008 budget, half of it in the form of “congressional initiatives” by Senator Manuel Villar. Critics claimed the road was diverted to benefit several housing projects of real-estate companies owned by Villar and his family.

Apeco, on the other hand, is a P1-billion economic zone that is intended to boost social, economic and industrial development in Aurora and nearby provinces. “It will bring the entire Luzon to the Pacific,” said Senator Edgardo Angara, who authored the bill creating Apeco together with his son Aurora Representative Juan Angara.

Apeco apparently is the senator’s pet project, behind which he does not hesitate to throw his power and influence. Last year, as chairman of the Senate committee on finance, Angara sliced off P650 million from the allocation for debt service and added it to the P150-million allocation for Apeco proposed by Malacañang. But for some reason, the heavily fattened pork for Apeco fortuitously remained frozen during the Arroyo administration, leaving the economic zone with only the original P150 million to spend this year.

Palafox, who was originally hired to prepare the master plan for the project, now seems to think putting more funds in Apeco would be like throwing good money after bad. “It’s a good project, but it’s at the wrong place and at the wrong time,” he told the Senate subcommittee hearing the Apeco budget Thursday.

And what’s wrong with the project? Plenty, according to Palafox. For one thing, no adequate feasibility study or business plan was done before it was undertaken. Neither were there any engineering or hydrologic studies done nor were there plans for an airport or seaport. Other groups have also opposed the project on the grounds that it would displace 3,000 families, including indigenous Dumagats, shift land use away from food production and lead to human-rights abuses.

But for Palafox, the biggest irregularity was the relocation of the project to a place that is not only far from the town proper but also prone to flooding and liquefaction. Under the original plan drawn up by his company, there would have been no need to build access roads to Apeco. But they were directed to move the location further from the poblacion, Palafox said. And they would learn later that part of the land in the project’s new location was owned by Benjamin Mina, the provincial environment and natural resources officer. It was Angara who was “running the show,” he added. “It turned out that the owner of the property was one of their own,” Palafox said.

Angara, however, explained that it was but natural that he would be involved in the project because it was he who “shepherded” it through Congress. “I have a natural stake in Apeco,” he said.

If Palafox is now criticizing the project, Angara said, it was because the services of his company were terminated after the plan, for which it was paid P32 million, was disapproved by various government agencies. “Palafox is a very boastful and dishonest person,” he said.

Maybe Palafox is all that, but that does not answer any of the issues he raised. He has not only questioned the financial aspects of the project but also raised doubts about the soundness of locating Apeco where it is now. And he has hinted that somebody profited handsomely from the decision to relocate the economic zone.

Whether Apeco is just another white elephant, and a dangerous one at that, is certainly worth looking into. Do we hear anybody in the Senate seeking a deeper inquiry into this matter, like it did with the C-5 project?

But wait, all the acrimonious debates in the Senate on the C-5 project actually produced nothing useful except to help torpedo Villar’s chances of becoming president. So maybe, some other agency should look into Palafox’s claims and maybe help save precious taxpayers’ money.

from: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/editorial/view/20101113-302941/A-white-elephant

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Though without an audience of presidential aspirants who are mostly on the campaign trail, farmers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples from Casiguran, Aurora remain hopeful their rights over lands covered by RA 10083 or the new law expanding the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) will be upheld by the next administration.

Vicente Convicto of Piglas-Casiguran-Task Force Anti-APECO with Dumagat Ryan Francisco and Fr. Joefran Talaban personally delivered today a letter from protesting local communities to be displaced by the project at the Manila headquarters of each candidate.

“We believe that boosting agriculture by supporting the basic sectors and protecting our rights and resources can alleviate poverty and address the problem of food security,” they wrote.

They also pledged support for a national agenda promoting sustainable development with human rights and environmental protection. RA 10083, authored by Senator Edgardo Angara and Rep. Sonny Angara, and endorsed by Aurora governor Bella Castillo-Angara, is said to violate laws on local government, agrarian reform, fisheries, and indigenous peoples rights.

The group appealed to presidentiables, including survey leaders Benigno Aquino III, Joseph Estrada and Manuel Villar, to uphold ownership of the disputed lands by local and tribal communities, stop the ongoing implementation of RA 10083, and repeal the APECO laws, which were swiftly passed without public consultations among the affected communities contesting them.

Casiguran, where Aurora’s rice granary is located, relies primarily on agriculture and fishing for its thriving rural economy. A 2002 study by the International Fund for Agriculture and Development links the rising numbers of landless peasants in Asia including the Philippines and global food insecurity to the compulsory acquisition of land in special economic zones (SEZs). Finding sustainable sources of income to offset the loss of property and livelihood are also problematic in SEZs like the APECO.

“Our vote goes to the president who can uphold our rights over politics.” They expressed concern that presidential candidates overlook national interest in allowing the APECO. “RA 10083 puts the APECO beyond the powers of national government and local government units, while using taxpayers’ money for private purposes,” they added.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Fr. Edwin Gariguez

CBCP-NASSA ( Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace )

Manila, Intramuros

Tel no. 09228348248


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Farmers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples from Casiguran, Aurora want the presidential candidates to answer contentions against RA 10083 or the new law expanding the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) from 500 to 12,923 hectares and displacing thousands.

“We want a president that protects the welfare of basic sectors from the abuses and crimes of elites in power that only want to advance their own interests at our expense,” they said.

In a letter to be personally delivered on the morning of 6 May 2010 to the campaign headquarters of every presidential aspirant in Manila, the group enumerated the following calls to action: uphold the private ownership of the disputed lands by local and tribal communities; stop the ongoing implementation of RA 10083; and repeal the APECO laws authored by Senator Edgardo Angara and Rep. Sonny Angara. Aurora governor Bella Angara-Castillo had pushed for the project despite ongoing protests by affected residents.

RA 10083 confiscates private properties without due process while violating other national laws on local government, agrarian reform, fisheries, and indigenous peoples rights, they said. It also breaches the moratorium issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself against the conversion of irrigated rice lands to non-agricultural uses.

Casiguran, where Aurora’s rice granary is located, relies primarily on agriculture and fishing for its thriving rural economy. A 2002 study by the International Fund for Agriculture and Development links the rising numbers of landless peasants in Asia including the Philippines and global food insecurity to the compulsory acquisition of land in special economic zones (SEZs). Finding sustainable sources of income to offset the loss of property and livelihood are also problematic in SEZs like the APECO.

“This is our land and our livelihood,” they said. “Our vote goes to the president who can uphold our rights over politics.” They added that national interest is also at stake since RA 10083 puts the APECO beyond the powers of national government and local government units, while using taxpayers’ money for private purposes. “This issue should be on the next administration’s agenda.”

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Fr. Edwin Gariguez

CBCP-NASSA ( Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace )

Manila, Intramuros

Tel no. 09228348248

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May 2010

“If they take away our land, they take away our livelihood,” they said.

Task Force Laban sa ASEZA, a multisectoral group comprised of farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples in Casiguran, Aurora, are continuing their protest against the lack of public consultations prior to the passage of RA 10083 or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act.

“Its implementation violates the private ownership of the lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and Indigenous Peoples Reform Act,” according to Aison Garcia of the legal resource NGO, Saligan. The Aurora ecozone project also breaches a moratorium signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself against the conversion of irrigated lands to non-agricultural uses.

Casiguran, where Aurora’s food basket is located, relies primarily on agriculture and fishing for livelihood.
The implementation of RA 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act (ASEZA) and its imminent expansion through RA 10083 will affect more than 130 families of Barangays Esteves, Binauan, Dibet, Culat, Cozo, and San Ildefonso.

The Senate, prior to the joint approval of the bill by Senator Edgardo Angara and Rep. Sonny Angara in Congress, received a letter in 2009 from the Multisectoral Action Group of Aurora citing their contentions. The ecozone is endorsed by Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, among the members of the ASEZA board. Joseph Delano-Bernardo, former ambassador to Spain, resigned as chairman in 2009.

Workers of Kanlaon, the developer that took over the project from Palafox Associates, have also reportedly staged a two-day work stoppage. They complained about not receiving wages for two months and instead being given compensation for only one- to two-weeks work.

Ecozones in the Philippines and parts of Asia have been marred by similar allegations of displacement of local communities and unjust labor practices by locators, and not drawing the expected number of foreign investments to boost employment and industry.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Fr. Edwin Gariguez

CBCP-NASSA ( Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace )

Manila, Intramuros

Tel no. 09228348248


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