[Event/Advisory] International Solidarity Mission (ISM) to call for international and local support against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO)

The Prelature of Infanta is organizing a two-day International Solidarity Mission (ISM) to call for international and local support against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, better known as APECO. This mission will be highlighted by an on-site visit of Swiss, Dutch and Filipino faith-based leaders, local anti-APECO support groups, representatives of the CHR and NCIP, and media around the area of the eco-zone on February 17 and 18, 2012.
The ISM aims to support and strengthen the anti-APECO campaign on both local and national levels towards the repeal of Republic Act 10083 (amended version of the RA 9490) renamed as the “Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO)”.

It’s More Fun in Aurora Without APECO

Formerly known as Aurora Special Economic Zone (ASEZA) in RA 9490, the APECO law expands the ecozone from 500 to 12,427 hectares, covering more barangays in the municipality of Casiguran such as Dibet, Esteves, San Ildefonso, Cozo and Culat.

Farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples’ leaders and residents of Casiguran have repeatedly raised concerns against the creation of the ecozone and recently filed a case at the Supreme Court declaring the two RAs as unconstitutional. Despite this, ASEZA now APECO was amended and even got a 2012 budget allocation of about Php332.5 million.

Among the issues raised by affected communities were:
· Private lands and farm lots awarded to farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) are among those included in the ASEZA coverage.
· No consultation with the affected sectors and communities was made prior to the passage of RA 9490.
· Local government units of covered barangays were never informed, consulted, and considered before the approval of the law.
· Included in Parcel 1 is a 110-hectare land proclaimed as a reservation by Governor Frank Murphy by virtue of Proclamation No. 723, dated 21 August 1934.
· Fifty-five (55) farmers and their families tilling more or less 90 hectares of riceland are in danger of being displaced.
· Fisherfolks and their families are affected by the passage of RAs 9490 and 10083 since the shorelines for saltwater fishing starting from the southern tip of the peninsula of San Ildefonso going along Casiguran Bay to the opposite shore of the Casiguran Sound measuring 57.4 km are subject to conversion into a freeport.
· APECO covers around 11,900 hectares of ancestral domain claims with pending application for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) with the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
· Harassment and misinformation about APECO on the ground.
· In violation/conflict of the 1987 Constitution and other laws, such as the following:
Ø Article X, Section 10, 1987 Constitution and Sections 9 and 27 of the Local Government Code (RA 7160)

APECO can take land and expand itself without any legislative action.
(Section 4. Governing Principles)

Ø Article XII, Section 21, 1987 Constitution

APECO can borrow funds from foreign sources and incur indebtedness without need of the concurrence of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas contrary to the express provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. (Section 12. Powers and Functions of APECO)

Ø Article XII, Section 11, 1987 Constitution

APECO authorizes foreign investors under the guise of private enterprises to operate public utilities in flagrant contravention of the policies enunciated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. (Section 12)

United Against APECO

The delegates/organizations of the ISM are: Bp. Felix Gmür from Switzerland; Bp. Rolando Tirona of the Prelature of Infanta; Fr. Ben Verberne, MSC of Dutch Conference of Religious; Helena Jeppesen of the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (SCLF); Floor Schuiling of Mensen met een Missie- Netherlands; Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), Fr. Pete Montallana, OFM and Bro. Martin Francisco of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Inc. (SSMNAI), Mark Cebreros of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Comm. Conchita Calzado of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); Integrated Pastoral Development Initiative (IPDI), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Focus on the Global South (FOCUS), PAKISAMA/Task Force Anti-APECO, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Tribal Center for Development (TCD), Swiss TV and Radio Veritas.

Over 500 members of the affected local communities and parishioners of the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion Parish in the area of Casiguran, Aurora will also be participating in this mission.

A community sharing between the international delegates and local communities, with each sector represented, will cap the first day, while the second day underscores the delegates’ visit to the indigenous people and fishing communities affected by the ecozone to listen to their experiences in relation to APECO.

After the two day mission, the delegation will come up with a comprehensive report which will be sent to different international organizations and concerned Philippine government agencies, on the local level. The report will detail the mission’s findings and appeal for appropriate actions – which are beneficial for the residents and affected communities and sectors in Casiguran, pressure international and inter-governmental bodies to issue statements against APECO and persuade the ecozone’s funders and potential investors to withdraw their commitments and investments.

The organizers are inviting the media, especially those who will be interested to cover the entire two-day ISM or do a story on the APECO for this press briefing to discuss details and the APECO issue thoroughly. For those who will join the ISM, departure in Manila will be on February 16. Transportation and accommodation will be made available to at most five reporters covering the ISM.
Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez
Executive Secretary
470 Gen. Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, PHILIPPINES
(02) 353-9346; 527-4147; 527-4163 / fax: (02) 527-4144

February 13, 2012

Contact Persons:

Fr. Edwin Gariguez
NASSA Executive Secretary
& Task Force Anti-APECO

Jofti Villena
FDC/FCAID Coordinator

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