Saturday, September 17, 2011
P332.5M Aurora ecozone budget approval in congress
CASIGURAN, Aurora, September 18, 2011-In the midst of protests from its oppositionists and after massive cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the House of Representatives approved last Wednesday the proposed P332.5-million 2012 budget for the Aurora economic zone wherein the budget is a far cry from the ecozone officials’ submitted budget proposal to the DBM of P3.565 billion.
“The 2012 is only less than 10 percent of the ecozone’s submitted budget proposal for the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO),” ecozone officials said.
APECO President Robbie Mathay revealed that the budget proposal was approved in the plenary along with other attached agencies of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), saying that of the P332.5 million, P55 million has been appropriated for personnel services and P277.5 million for capital outlay, including building construction, land acquisition among others.
Prior to the budget approval, Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said that a pre-plenary conference was held last September 5 wherein Anakpawis Party-list Representative Rafael Mariano addressed some questions to APECO officials, including the alleged massive displacement of landowners, farmers and fisherfolks.
Mathay gave an assurance that no massive displacement would take place and that the ecozone will inform everybody of the project impact.
Last June 21, 2011, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad stated in his letter to Mathay that they were recommending P332.5 million after a review of the proposed project. “The DBM recommended budget was arrived at applying the zero-base budgeting approach whereby major on-going programs and projects were assessed and reviewed as to relevance, and after assessing APECO’S demonstrated absorptive capacity,” Abad said.
Congressman Angara and Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo admitted that the budget cuts would slow down the pace of construction works inside the ecozone.
The approval of the project budget also followed intense lobbying by known anti-APECO groups among them the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) which warned that such approval may lead to the wholesale destruction in this town where the project is located and nearby towns in Aurora province.
The groups complaining about massive displacement of farmers and fishermen, land-grabbing and harassment of local folks were Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap and vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France who earlier submitted a position paper to the 125-member House committee on appropriations chaired by Congressman Emilio Abaya. The clergy of the prelature of infanta also opposed the ecozone project. (Jason de Asis)
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