Task Force Anti-Apeco
Press Release: 14 November 2010
Locals thank Aurora’s ‘true champions’
Protesters against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) thanked Senator Serge Osmeña for the prompt action on their cause in last Thursday’s budget hearing in the Senate.
“We have been waiting for our story to be told here in Manila. We hope more people find out that it is not the interests of the people of Aurora being served by that project,” farmer Victor Convicto of Casiguran said in Filipino.
Convicto was invited to the Senate by Osmeña with other residents of affected barangays that include Esteves, Dibet, Culat, Cozo, and San Ildefonso.
RA 10083 or the Apeco law, 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 Senate, prior to the joint approval of the bill by Senator Edgardo Angara and Rep. Sonny Angara in Congress, had received a letter in 2009 from the Multisectoral Action Group of Aurora citing contentions of affected communities that were reportedly not raised during deliberations.
“There were no consultations with the community then and until now, they have ignored our sentiments. They are also dividing us by offering money to tribal leaders to take their side,” said Dumagat Victor Abajon.
At the hearing Osmeña had called Senator Angara as the “Chief Executive Officer of Apeco.” It was also revealed that since 2007, the Apeco has been spending public funds without a report to the Commission on Audit. The admission came from the Apeco accountant after Osmeña requested for a copy.
Locals were also grateful that the project’s former planner Felino Palafox has bared alleged anomalies in its funding and implementation. The Apeco reportedly bought 12 hectares of land from Provincial Environment Regional Officer Benjamin Mina for P8 million while other landowners were paid only P2 million for 44 hectares.
“We know that we are up against a powerful dynasty but we are hopeful because more voices are speaking out,” said Luz Gonzales, among the group’s elders. “They are the true champions of Aurora.”
Representatives from nongovernment and people’s organizations also attended the hearing to show their support for the group.
“With their help, we can and we will continue this fight,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA). In a letter dated October 26, Apeco deputy administrator threatened to sue Bishop Broderick Pabillo, CBCP-Nassa national director for his statement against the project as “an antithesis to the principles of social justice and democracy.”
“We affirm the Church’s stand and give our full support to the communities of Casiguran,” added Gariguez.
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 )