125 Casiguran farmers, fisherfolk IP’s begin 370-km protest march against Aurora Ecozone
These are the fighting words of 125 farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples who, at 8:00 a.m. today, began marching towards Manila after a massive send-off mass at the heart of Casiguran town in Aurora.
Showered by support from hundreds upon hundreds of Casiguran’s residents, the marchers will be journeying a grueling 370-kilometers through treacherous mountains, rural flatlands and peri-urban landscapes, in order to voice opposition to the Aurora Pacific Ecozone (APECO) long expressed by the communities of Casiguran.
“Nothing will stop us from reaching Manila and delivering our concerns about APECO to President Aquino— be it floods, the heat of the sun or even landslides in the Sierra Madre Mountains,” said Marlon Angara, a local fisherfolk leader, in Filipino. “We, the farmers, fisherfolk and IP’s of Casiguran have had enough of APECO’s endless dangers to our future.”
Dubbed “Lakad Katarungan, Lakad Matuwid na Daan”, the Casiguran long walk represents the latest stage in the five-year struggle of more than 3000 families (13,600 people) whose lands and livelihoods have been endangered by the creation of the Aurora ecozone. Since 2010, their anti-APECO movement has engaged time and again with policymakers in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and Executive Departments like the Department of Agrarian Reform— yet to no avail in stopping APECO’s operations until the present time
The Casiguran multisectoral march— which has been backed by national 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. With the support of local churches, the 125-marchers will be trooping from Casiguran to Baler, Cabanatuan, Malolos, Caloocan, Quezon City, and Manila.
“For five years already, the lands and livelihoods of Casiguran’s poor have been put in peril by the Aurora ecozone,” said Father Joefran Talaban, Task Force Anti-APECO spokesperson. “Instead of rewarding APECO with continued access to public money, our national government must instead hold it accountable for the legal violations that have consistently hounded its activities.”
APECO is the 12,923-hectare megaproject sponsored by the family of Senator Edgardo Angara, Congressman Juan Edgardo Angara and Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo. Though often promised to usher in a new era of economic progress in Aurora, the ecozone has since been accused by those like Talaban of transgressing a whole chain of laws, such as the Local Government Code, the Indigenous Peoples Rights’ Act, the CARPER law, and the Fisheries Code.
“Dozens of fisherfolk families have been displaced by the creation of APECO’s airport without any kind of relocation, and numerous farmers have been deceived by APECO’s land buyers,” Talaban maintained. “APECO was established over the ancestral domains of the Casiguran IP’s without their free, prior and informed consent, and various incidents of environmental degradation such as illegal logging, mangrove clearing and river quarrying have also taken place.”
“I may also be an Angara,” asserted Marlon Angara in Filipino. “But it is very clear to me that if APECO is fully constructed, there will be only worsening insecurity for us farmers, fisherfolk and IP’s.
“We urge President Aquino to ensure that the lands, waters and forests now being taken from us by APECO will be returned to our communities,” he added. “We are walking for stop APECO’s seizing of lands, but we are also walking to show President Aquino that we are one with him in his commitment to ensuring good governance and social justice. We will have none of these, so long as APECO continues to operate in Casiguran.”
For communications please contact:
Task Force Anti-APECO Communications Coordinator
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