Groups challenge Angaras to a debate on Aurora ecozone project

MANILA – In a picket in front of the Batasan Pambansa Complex, members of Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement challenged the Angaras to a debate on the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port (Apeco) project.

Apeco, a P1 billion ($23.2 million) economic zone project in Casiguran town, Aurora province, covers 493 hectares in Estevez and Dibet villages, and 12,427-hectares in Cozo, Culat and San Ildefonso villages. The project would consist of the construction of residential, commercial and industrial projects, ports, eco-tourism, highway, airport, among others.

The coalition said Senator Edgardo Angara, his son Rep. Sonny Angara and sister Gov. Bella Angara-Castillo should face the opposition to Apeco “fair and square.”

The alliance said that Senator Angara, on the occasion of the 402nd anniversary of Baler town on August 19, tagged Pamalakaya, an alliance of fisherfolk groups, as front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Pamalakaya has been very vocal in its criticisms to Apeco, noting that the project would affect the livelihood of hundreds of fisherfolk in the coastal villages of Casiguran.

“Instead of engaging in principled debate on Apeco, Senator Angara and the ruling Angara political dynasty clan are resorting to Jurassic dirty tactics such as red tagging, red baiting and red bashing scheme to embolden the military to harass and persecute groups and individuals opposed to Apeco project,” France Salvador, convenor of Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement.

A fact-finding mission in June revealed military presence in villages affected by the project.

France reiterated their demand for House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, chair of the Committee on Appropriations, to junk the proposed P332.5 million budget for Apeco next year.

The coalition branded the 2012 Apeco budget as “budget for wholesale destruction of Casiguran in favor of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project and of the ruling political dynasty in the province.”

Pamalakaya said the P332.5 million, if approved by Congress, will be spent for land and water use conversions of rich, productive and abundant agricultural and fishing areas in Casiguran and nearby towns. More than 12,900 hectares of arable land will be converted into industrial, tourist and commercial areas, the coalition said.

The group said the conversion of Casiguran rice fields may result to loss of about 961 to 1,281 metric tons of rice supply and may lead to local food shortage and hunger.

Local peasant group Pamana said Apeco will displace more than 5,000 farmers, fisherfolk and inidigenous peoples in Casiguran.

If approved, the budget for Apeco will dislocate more than 4,000 more families once the project gears for expansion, Pamana said.

The coalition also warned against environmental destruction, noting that ten hectares of mangrove trees along the Casiguran coast will be removed to give way to the project. (Text and photos By Ronalyn V. Olea /

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