(Note: The following does not reflect the view of the entire AEA. This was republished [with some revisions] from a facebook note by an AEA member.)
The Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) “vs.” The Farmers, Fisher folk and Tribal Communities in Casiguran, Aurora
The government’s side: http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2010/0127_angara1.asp
The local communities’ side:
Although it is not sure that The Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) will ruin the livelihood and the very lives of the farming, fishing and indigenous communities in Aurora, there is a need to give this issue more media attention. Also, certain representatives of the Aurora communities visited the Ateneo de Manila University yesterday, and said that the government has not properly consulted and gained the approval of all the elements of the local government units regarding the creation of Apeco. What the Apeco covers is privately owned land and could not just be acquired without the owners’ consent. The issue and this debate is a very important one for it involves human lives and an alleged injustice. This issue should be given more media coverage.
A key proponent to the legislation pushing for the creation of Apeco, Sen. Edgardo Angara, said that Apeco aims to boost economic activity, lure investors and eventually improve the region and its people. However, the indigenous communities feel threatened by the transformation of their land and said that they were not properly relocated. Farmers might lose their land that provides them livelihood. Fishermen might have to find another means of feeding their family (lest they find another place in which to catch fish, or perhaps pay to rent part of the coast).
According to one of their representatives, the locals cannot perform most of the jobs that will be generated in Apeco, for these indigenous people did not have good formal education. A representative of the fisher folk remarked in Filipino, “How would you feel if you’re deprived of your allowance, your car and credit cards? If someone forced you out of your home?”
Still, this issue should be studied well. Perhaps the government should not only create Apeco but also provide the necessary education, relocation, and transitionary jobs for the locals–and this in the end might generate better livelihoods for the communities. Or perhaps it would be better to leave the community alone and either lessen the extent or change the location of Apeco. Nothing is being claimed here, these are just mere suggestions. What is imperative is a comprehensive and careful study, and a just plan of action. Also, there should be consultations with the locals, and meaningful and fair dialogues.
This is not to call to abolish Apeco. This is a call to make sure that what is best for the local communities is given to them. And it only makes sense that they ought to have their say in all this. They have been given some media attention, but it seems not enough.
To those of you who have connections with the media (relatives, friends, etc. who write for national dailies, or are employees of broadcasting networks): please ask them to give the local communities more chances to express their side on this issue.
Or you could simply read more about the issue, and share this with your friends in your own way. Thank you!
For those of you who are journalists or who know journalists:
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Atty. Aison Garcia (0922-8340026)
Task Force Anti-Apeco
disclaimer: There might be a few factual errors in this note, so there are reliable links at the beginning for a more precise grasp of the issue.