“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 )
Tel no. 09228348248