CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A bill has been filed seeking the repeal of a law that created the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco), drawing the support of the Church in a statement pointing to alleged abuses committed in pursuit of the project.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano filed the bill on Monday, about two years after Republic Act No. 10083 (Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act of 2010) was enacted in April 2010 to amend RA 9490 creating the Aurora Special Economic Zone (Aseza) in 2001. Both bills were sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.
Lapsed into law
“After its passage in 2010, [former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] was supposed to sign it in 30 days. However [Arroyo] failed to sign it or veto it. So it is moot and academic that the law was passed officially by the gesture of Malacañang,” Mariano told the Inquirer.
The Apeco law mainly expanded the free port’s coverage to 12,923 hectares, he said in the bill’s explanatory note.
Lands marked for agrarian reform, reservations and those covered by ancestral domain claims have been covered by Apeco, he said.
Mariano said the local government and residents were not informed or consulted about Aseza or Apeco, violating their right to due process.
Enriching the few
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Church supports the move to repeal the Apeco law.
The law merely enriches “the few, while sacrificing the interest of the poor,” said Pabillo, who also chairs the National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Pabillo urged President Aquino to take a closer look at Apeco and suspend its operations and budget, which has been slashed from P3.5 billion to P332.5 million.
“We challenge the sincerity of this government and we hope it starts by upholding the well-being of the poor over the designs of powerful politicians behind questionable legislation like Apeco,” said Pabillo.
Indigenous peoples, farmers and fishermen in Aurora sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in their campaign against Apeco.
CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales said she would ask the commission en banc to support the repeal of the Apeco law because of the human rights violations that were committed in the course of building the free port.
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