[Press Release] Anti-APECO Marchers celebrate gains from 370-km protest walk in March Declaration, urge swift fulfillment of President and Cabinet’s promises -Task Force Anti-APECO

Lakad Katarungan, Lakad Matuwid na Daan

Anti-APECO Marchers celebrate gains from 370-km protest walk in March Declaration, urge swift fulfillment of President and Cabinet’s promises

Extracted from Jofti's FB

Extracted from Jofti’s FB

Sa Matuwid na Daan, pangako’y di tinatalikuran.”

26 days after departing by foot from Casiguran, the 120 marchers protesting the implementation of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) are finally returning to their homes in Northern Aurora, even as they continue to await the results of the two-month investigation of APECO now being conducted by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Their temporary homecoming takes place amidst disappointment over President Aquino’s reluctance to veto the 2013 budget of the controversial, 12,923-hectare ecozone— but, also, high hopes in various promises that the nation’s chief executive, cabinet officials, and agency heads have committed to over the past week.

Beginning with the dialogue of the marchers with President Benigno Aquino and his Cabinet on December 11, 2012 at the Ateneo de Manila University, and in separate meetings with DAR, DOJ, CHED, the NCIP, DA-BFAR, and NEDA, the leaders of the Casiguran marchers— with the help of their supporters— have succeeded in securing the following pledges from the national government:

· An independent review by NEDA of the APECO project, with representation from the Casiguran Marchers and their support groups (for completion within two months)

· IP’s: The granting of 11,900-hectare CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title) for the San Idelfonso Peninsula, through the initiative of NCIP Chair Brigida Zenaida Pawid

· Upland Farmers: The renewal of the Integrated Social Forestry Contracts covering 288-hectares for another 25 years beginning 2014, through the initiative DENR Sec. Ramon Paje

· Fisherfolk: Ensuring the respect of small fisherfolk’s fishing rights within the Casiguran bay, and the establishment of livelihood projects for the small fisherfolk of Casiguran, through the initiative of BFAR Director Asis Perez

· Lowland Farmers: DAR to confirm that the 105-hectare Esteves Agricultural Reservation cannot be converted to any other land uses according to the CARPER Law; and that any intent to change its present land use is subject to proportionate sanctions

In a poem-statement read by Vicente Convicto, president of PIGLASCA (the multisectoral peoples’ organization of the Casiguran marchers), at their send-off solidarity event at the Department of Agrarian Reform in the late evening of December 18, the marchers affirmed that they would continue to exercise close, careful vigilance over progress on these commitments— most especially with the NEDA review of APECO.

“Ipinapangako po naming sa aming pagbabalik sa aming pamilya’t pamayanan… maging mas malakas at matatag kami sa pagharap sa maaring maging kahinatnan ng ipinakong pag-aaral, nawa’y katotohana’y tunay na umiiral at makamit nami’y mithing katarungan,” the marchers said collectively in their statement.

“Nguni’t pag katotohana’y natabunan,” they, however, insisted. “pagbabalik nami’y inyong asahan at nawa’y inyo kaming muling samahang igiit sa Malacanang liwanang ng matuwid na daan: APECO’y tuluyan nang tigilan, sakaha’t kabundukan, lupaining ninuno at pangisdaan, tuluyan nang makamtan!”

Throughout their one-week stay in Metro Manila, the protest walkers have, moreover received firm statements of support from influential figures and organizations ranging from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Commissioner on Human Rights Loretta Ann Rosales, and CODE-NGO— the largest coalition of civil society organizations in the Philippines.

Also supporting the marchers’ cause in the NEDA investigation are former NEDA Director-Generals Solita Collas-Monsod and Dr. Cielito Habito. Along the same vein, a group of 19 concerned social scientists from the Ateneo de Manila University has also recently signed— last December 16— a petition calling for an immediate review and moratorium on APECO’s activities.

“Uuwi kami, dahil naniniwala kami sa tuwid na daan, tinutupad ang pangakong binitiwan. Babalik kami, dahil nais naming ang katarungan ay tuluyan makamtan,” read out Convicto. “Kami ay babalik at aangkinin ang katuparan ng mga pangakong ito sa madali at tamang panahon.”

The Casiguran marchers’ struggle against APECO continues.

Press Release— Task Force Anti-APECO— December 19, 2012

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