Saturday, August 20, 2011

‘Grill’ the Angaras on Apeco, lawmakers told

MANILA, August 20, 2011—A group of fishefolks has asked lawmakers to probe Senator Edgardo “Edong” Angara and his son, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara and the family’s involvement in pushing for the approval of the multi-million Apeco project in Aurora.
The fishers’ group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) told lawmakers to “grill” the Angaras about the issue of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Ports Authority (Apeco) as the P332.5 million (US$7,804,270.10) proposed funding for the project is being heard at the Philippine Congress.
Budget deliberation for Apeco is set on August 22.
Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France said in a statement that the project, being anti-people and environmentally degrading, should be shelved by the lawmakers.
France said, Pamalakaya and the umbrella organization Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement will extensively and intensively lobby for the scrapping of the project and will push for a probe regarding what they call “Angara clan scheme”.
“Let the Angaras explain to the people why they are pursuing the project despite the wholesale rejection of Apeco [by some groups and lawmakers] during the committee hearing. However, they should not be allowed to speak and cast their vote once Congress in plenary puts this controversial issue to vote and approval,” France said.
Earlier, the aforementioned groups sent a letter to House Committee for Appropriations chair Cavite (1st District) Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya and the other members of the Committee, humbly asking the solon to reconsider the disapproval of the Apeco budget in the spirit of “objectivity, fairness and justice.”
The groups opined that the approval of the P332.5 million funds for the creation of Apeco will only legitimize land-grabbing and the abuse of marine resources in the Aurora province, thus endangering the livelihood, food and housing security, and the environment of the people in Aurora and the other affected areas.
It will also undermine the security and safety of the people, as the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Aurora (PAMANA) had already reported harassments, allegedly perpetrated by the elements of the Bravo Coy of the 48th Infantry Battalion as some residents refuse to give up their lands for the project.
In case of land-grabbing in the area, some of the farmers and fisherfolks that would be affected by the reclamation are beneficiaries of the Commonwealth Government’s land reform program.
According to some reports that reached this reporter, as the project pushes through, there would be a massive cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) and Integrated Social Forestry Certificates, issued by the past regimes.
Aside from Pamalakaya and the Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement other lobbyists against Apeco are the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the faith-based group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), the Government Employees for Genuine Land Reform, Katribu Party list and the PAMANA.
Meanwhile, the Angaras had defended the project saying that it would benefit their constituents in Aurora as it would provide more job opportunities for them. The Apeco, said that the project proponents envision “a globally competitive, technologically advanced economic zone in the Pacific Northeast Sea Board working towards a renowned business community characterized by unified perspectives on green revolution and world-class innovation” and take as its mission to “foster national socio-economic growth and foreign business relations through the advancement of an innovative, eco-friendly and cost-efficient economic zone capable of withstanding the demands of today’s global market.”
Earlier this year, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III had already appointed former Labor chief Bienvenido Laguesma as board director of the controversial Apeco. Another appointee for the grandiose development project is Roberto Mathay, a businessman. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

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