PRESS RELEASE: 5 May 2010
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 )
Tel no. 09228348248