They called it home; they made it flourish— and more than a hundred of them will troop to the nation’s capital rather than give it up.
On the day right before the likely bicameral approval of the P353.5 million budget of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) for 2013, various groups have bared plans for escalating the battle of Casiguran residents for their lands against the scandal-ridden, 12,923-hectare megaproject sponsored by the family of Senator Edgardo Angara, Congressman Juan Edgardo Angara and Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.
APECO’s proponents have long alleged that the construction of the 12,923-hectare ecozone in the town of Casiguran will usher in a new era of economic and industrial progress for the province of Aurora.
In a press conference last November 21, 2012, at the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) office, representatives of more than 3000 families, whose lands and livelihoods have been threatened by APECO, sounded their intent to march an arduous 370-kilometers from Casiguran, Aurora to Malacañang Palace. The objective of the march: to exhort President Aquino to impose a moratorium and independent investigation on the operations of APECO, while fast-tracking the execution of asset reform programs in Casiguran.
Dubbed “Lakad Katarungan, Lakad Matuwid na Daan”, the Casiguran long walk will cross through treacherous mountainous areas, rainforest and coastal zones, rural flatlands and peri-urban landscapes, all while highlighting the condemnations of the Aurora ecozone long voiced by the local communities of Casiguran.
The march— which has been backed by organizations such as CBCP-NASSA, the PAKISAMA peasant federation, the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Sulong CARPER, AR Now!, and other member groups of Task Force Anti-APECO (TFAA)— is planned to run from November 24 until December 14.
Up to 140 of Casiguran’s farmers, small fishers and Agtas will be participating.
“For five years already, the lands and livelihoods of Casiguran’s poor have been endangered by the Aurora ecozone,” said Father Joefran Talaban, Task Force Anti-APECO spokesperson. “Dozens of fisherfolk families have been displaced by the creation of APECO’s airport without any kind of relocation, and numerous farmers have been harassed and deceived by APECO’s land buyers. Agtas’ rightful claims to their ancestral domains have been consistently disrespected by the Freeport authority, and various incidents of environmental degradation such as illegal logging, mangrove clearing and river quarrying have taken place.”
“The name ‘Casiguran’ comes from ‘Kasiguruhan’, which means security,” Talaban asserted. “But it is alarmingly clear to us that if APECO is fully constructed, there will be only worsening insecurity for farmers, fisherfolk and IP’s. Whatever APECO has claimed, there has been absolutely no kind of decent employment that has been guaranteed for all these sectors, once they have been stripped of their lands and basic resources.”
According to the marchers’ representatives as well as the national support organizations, the laws that have actually been violated by APECO have been legion— not least because of the massive land displacements that it has threatened to orchestrate. Since 2007, the Aurora ecozone has arguably transgressed the Local Government Code, the Fisheries Code, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms Law, and the Government Auditing Code. Disturbingly, the ecozone authority has yet to be held accountable for these lapses.
“APECO has been a waste of public funds, a danger to the livelihoods of Casiguran’s poor, and a disgrace to the good governance thrust of the present administration,” declared Talaban. “If President Aquino truly wishes to see the genuine upliftment of Aurora’s people and the pursuit of his ‘daang matuwid’, his task today is crystal clear: he must bring suspend the activities of APECO, while protecting the lands and resources of the farmers, fisherfolk and IP’s of Casiguran.”
For communications please contact:
Task Force Anti-APECO Communications Coordinator
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