“Hindi kaunlaran ng nakararami. Kaunlaran lang ng iilan.”
This is what Marlon Angara, a fisherfolk from Casiguran, said when asked about what he thinks of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone or APECO. He is one of the locals who are at risk of losing their land and livelihood to give way for the construction of a development project that is APECO.
APECO, was established by virtue of Republic Act No. 9490, otherwise known as the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act of 2007. It is being supervised and managed by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority into a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, financial, and recreational center, with a suitable residential area, in order to create employment opportunities around Casiguran, and to effectively encourage and attract legitimate and productive local and foreign investments. It was authored by Senator Edgardo “Edong” Angara and is widely regarded as his “pet project”.
APECO will cover 12,923 hectares of lands in Casiguran, Aurora. The development project promises to boost tourism, employment rate and the economy of the municipality as well as its neighboring areas. However, after about seven years, there are still no observable operations happening in the area; given the fact that the government has already allocated more than P2 billion of the precious taxpayers’ money to APECO.
Parts of APECO’s land coverage are agricultural lands and ancestral lands of the Agta Dumagat tribe. The inhabitants of the land who are the farmers, fisherfolks and the Agta Dumagats would have to face the possibility of being evicted from what they call their home and be deprived of their livelihood means. For the locals who will be affected, the possibility of being evicted is more than just the issue of being displaced; they treat their lands as their life.
This story just shows how much one can do in the name of development. Perhaps, the APECO administration and the anti-APECO movement have concepts of development that are two poles apart.
Get to hear more voices of the people of Casiguran through this video documentary produced by St. Scholastica’s College students entitled Sa Ngalan ng Kaunlaran:
Rumours reported in 2012 suggested that Angara, then running for governor of Aurora province , withdrew his candidacy after residents of Casiguran mounted an “18-day, 350-kilometer march to dramatize their opposition” to the project.
According to Jerik Cruz, communications coordinator of the Task Force Anti-Apeco, “the marchers secured other pledges from government agencies: The grant of a certificate of ancestral domain title over 11,900 ha in the San Ildefonso Peninsula; the renewal of the integrated social forestry contracts covering 288 ha for another 25 years starting in 2014; a promise to respect the fishing rights of fisherfolk within Casiguran Bay, and the establishment of livelihood projects.”
Senator Sergio Osmena III continues to push for budget cuts to APECO citing that one of the key components of the program, the construction of port facilities in Casiguran, is not likely to be viable considering that even “ports nearer to Manila had not been fully utilized.” He also cited “constitutional issues” surrounding the overall project that have yet to be resolved.
[Photo courtesy The Casiguranin Pride.]
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