whose land was encroached by the APECO project,
behind is the construction of the administration building.
(Photo by Len Olea of Bulatlat)
The regional farmer group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) and Panlalawigang Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Aurora (Pamana, Provincial Peasant Alliance of Aurora) urged Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to repeal Republic Act 10083 or Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act of 2010 (Apeco) on the next session of congress opened by his second state of the nation address (SONA) on July 25, The groups said that the law was passed by the 14th congress on April 22, 2010 under the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“We demand Aquino to repeal RA 10083 as it is totally anti-peasant and anti-people, instigating land-scale land grabbing and displacement and gross violation of people’s basic rights. Aquino should prove his promise of change to the people of Casiguran town and Aurora province by issuing a marching order to the congres to repeal this law,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson.
The groups consulted with the office of Bayan Muna Partylist Teddy Casiño and learned that this law was enacted behind closed doors and through lapsing into becoming a law on April 22, 2010. Borneo said that there were no committee hearings held and no opposition was recorded, thus, making this law arguable. The Senate Bill 3470 was filed by sen. Edgardo Angara and the House Bill 6213 was filed by his son Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara. The Apeco law revised the Republic Act 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act of 2007 and expanded its coverage from 500-hectares within Casiguran town to 12, 923-hectares and allowing more expansion through the province. The lands are targeted to be converted into commercial, residential, industrial and eco-tourism areas, including the international airport and seaport, highways, resorts and more.
Pamana said that there were no public consultations held in Casiguran during the deliberation of this law and the farmers totally oppose the program as it would cover their farms and home lots. Pamana leader Elmer Dayson added that Casiguran Mayor Reynaldo Bitong also opposed the program as he was never consulted in the process.
Amgl and Pamana led the recent National Fact-finding and Solidarity Mission last June 23, joined by the national farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Kmp), church group Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (Pcpr), government employee group Courage, Kamp, Katribu Partylist, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Gitnang Luson, Karapatan Central Luzon, National Union of People’s Lawyers and many people’s and non-government organization from the Central Luzon region and Aurora province. They visited and consulted with farmers from Brgy. Esteves, Dibet, Culat, Cozo and San Ildefonso.
The groups reported that the Apeco project has caused massive and threat of land grabbing and displacement, rights abuses and threatened the people’s source of livelihood. The classified the subject areas as land issues, human rights and effects of Apeco and people’s perception of the program.
Under land issue, the groups reported: the farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk from Brgy. Esteves, Dibet, Culat, Cozo and San Ildefonso started cultivating the lands since the 1960s, with some as early as 1959 or earlier; they cultivate rice, coconut, fruit, rootcrops and other crops, fishing is also a major source of livelihood especially to those residing at bayside areas; rice lands in Brgy. Esteves are prime agricultural lands, irrigated and yielding about 60-80 cavans of unhusked rice, considered as the rice granary of northern Aurora; there are farmers have land titles inherited or bought from their ancestors; there are farmers at Brgy. Cozo and San Ildefonso who have Certificate of Land Ownership Awards and Integrated Social Forestry certificates; CLOA farmer-beneficiaries are still yet to own the lands they have tilled now facing threats of cancellation while ISF certificate holders are now threatened of expiration; at Brgy. Culat, though lands were declared under Proclamation 467 of former president Manuel Quezon, indigenous farmers are threatened of displacement; Apeco usually offers P60,000 per hectare to farmers to leave their land; at Brgy. Cozo and San ildefonso, farmers and fisherfolk are offered fish cages; Apeco promised jobs to indigenous people from Brgy. Cozo and San Ildefonso in exchange of leaving their lands; in Brgy. Culat lands under Proclamation 467 are targeted to be converted into a zoo; Apeco administration and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) illegalizes coal-making and “kaingin” (slash and burn) farming at Brgy. Culat; at Brgy. Esteves, 450 farming households are threated of land grabbing and displacement, with some swindled by Penro Benjamin Miña by selling lands to Apeco pawned to him by farmers, particularly the land constructed with the Apeco administration building and buying lands underpriced, particularly the land constructed with the airstrip; at Brgy. Esteves, a farmer was promised jobs to his children in exchange of donating his land to Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT); and on many instances, Penro Miña acted as a “broker” or agent for Apeco that swindles and pressures farmers to sell their lands.
Moreover, they cited right abuses such as: at Brgy. Dibet, Penro Miña poked a gun at a peasant woman on March 11, 2008; at Brgy. Esteves, he again threatened an elderly peasant woman on February 10, 2010, he was with a group of armed police; at Brgy. Esteves and Dibet, elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) transform the barangay hall into a military detachment preventing the residents to freely approach barangay officials; at Brgy. Cozo and Culat, elements of the military conduct regular patrol around their farms; Penro Miña harassed upland farmers at Brgy. Culat on September 27, 2010; Apeco employes “community organizers” at Brgy. Esteves and San Ildefonso, but actually serve as “eyes and ears” against farmers’ resistance of the project; the quarrying operations at Brgy. Bianoan affects the supply of drinking water and irrigation of farms at Brgy. Esteves, Dibet and adjacent barangays; farmers believe that barangay officials are intimidated by Apeco officials, resulting to their refusal to help with their struggle.
The groups gathered the people’s perception of the Apeco program and its effects and came up with the following: generally the people from the 5 barangays oppose Apeco and shared that there were no public consultations held with them before the enactment of the law; there are also some who are not familiar with the program at Brgy. San Ildefonso and Culat, proving there were no information drive; the Apeco administration launched a TESDA training among women residents but allowances were cut-rate and some were forced to give massages to Apeco engineers and resulted to marital problems; the quarrying operation by Rocky Mountains is resulting environmental destruction and threaten a man-made disaster to residents in times of typhoon; farmers from the 5 barangays usually are organized as a group and they are soliciting support from different sectors; the people are opposing Apeco as defense of their right to land and livelihood such as their farming and fishing, they intend to keep their farms as their source of food as well as continue fishing to avoid bringing in food supply from other provinces; and their common demand is the repeal of the Republic Act of 10083 and the distribution of lands they till.
Amgl said that the Angaras are attempting to implement the conversion of Aurora into a matter of years, that takes decades from other provinces. The Apeco is their primary tool of encroaching thousands of hectares of land serving their interest as a ruling family of the province. The Angaras are well-known for being a political dynasty.
“Aquino should stop the implementation of Apeco as this is a waste of public money and its projects are totally in contradiction with the people’s interest. Development does not mean wiping out communities of farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples,” said Canlas.
“We are also studying the filing of charges against PENRO Miña as his actions are completely unbecoming of a public official,” he added.
The groups also added that they are to present the issue in the coming assembly of the International Solidarity of People’s Struggle (Ilps) to be held in the Philippines this coming July.
“While we campaign against Apeco nationally, we would seek the support of many people’s organization abroad to pressure Aquino and congress to repeal the law. We are also urging the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to support our campaign,” Canlas said.
Amgl and Pamana are the regional and provincial chapters of Kmp, respectively. Pamana organizes Aurora farmers to concretely defend their rights to land by the broad unity and massive mobilization among farmers.
“The struggle against Apeco would require the strong actions of different sectors, of the farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and supporters from here and abroad. We have a big adversary such as the Angaras and with Aquino promoting the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. These landlord icons would not be jolted by simple words and media work, but by the actual mobilization of Casiguran and Aurora farmers, of the region as well as other sectors,” Canlas said. #