Friday, February 17, 2012

Infanta clergy organizes anti-APECO mission

CASIGURAN, Aurora, February 17, 2012-A two day international solidarity mission (ISM) was organized by the Prelature of Infanta appealing for international and local support against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO).
The anti-APECO groups said that the highlights of todays’ mission until tomorrow is to strengthen the anti-APECO campaign on both local and national levels towards the repeal of Republic Act 10083 (amended version of the RA 9490) renamed as the APECO.
The ISM groups are Swiss, Dutch and Filipino faith-based leaders, local anti-APECO support groups, representatives of the CHR and NCIP, together with media around the area of the eco-zone will conduct onsite visit today.
The group furthered that the first day will be a community sharing between the international delegates and local communities, with each sector represented, while the second day underscores the delegates’ visit to the indigenous people and fishing communities affected by the ecozone to listen to their experiences in relation to APECO.
They expected to come up with a comprehensive report about the issue on the ecozone which will be sent to different international organizations and concerned Philippine government agencies, on the local level two (2) days after the probe.
The prelature said that the report will detail the mission’s findings and appeal for appropriate actions, which are beneficial for the residents and affected communities and sectors in Casiguran, pressure international and inter-governmental bodies to issue statements against APECO and persuade the ecozone’s funders and potential investors to withdraw their commitments and investments.
The delegates said that the on-going plans of creating the eco-zone of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) from 500 to 12, 427 hectares, covering more barangays in the municipality of Casiguran-farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples’ leaders and residents in the municipality have repeatedly raised concerns against its expansion.
There are about some 500 members from the affected local communities and parishioners of the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion Parish in the area of Casiguran, Aurora who will be participating also in the mission aside from the ISM mission.
Members of the united against APECO are Bp. Felix Gmür from Switzerland; Bp. Rolando Tirona of the Prelature of Infanta; Fr. Ben Verberne, MSC of Dutch Conference of Religious; Helena Jeppesen of the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (SCLF); Floor Schuiling of Mensen met een Missie- Netherlands; Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), Fr. Pete Montallana, OFM and Bro. Martin Francisco of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA), Mark Cebreros of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Comm. Conchita Calzado of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); Integrated Pastoral Development Initiative (IPDI), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Focus on the Global South (FOCUS), PAKISAMA/Task Force Anti-APECO, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Tribal Center for Development (TCD), Swiss TV and Radio Veritas 846.
The campaign against APECO goes international after Dutch and Swiss religious leaders arrived in the country to join the ISM in the affected areas, especially the indigenous peoples and farm communities in Aurora and the nearby provinces.
The Prelature of Infanta statement said that ISM intends to see the situation of the tribal groups, fisherfolks, and farmers in the area in which the free port is set to be built.
“Some of the issues raised by affected residents are, private lands and farm lots awarded to farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) are among those included in the ASEZA (Aurora Special Economic Zone Area, which has been turned into Apeco) coverage; there is no consultation with the affected sectors and communities was made prior to the passage of RA 9490 (the enabling law for ASEZA); local government units of covered barangays were never informed, consulted, and considered before the approval of the law; harassment and misinformation about Apeco on the ground; and violation/conflict of the 1987 Constitution and other laws,” said the members of the ISM in a statement.
Allegedly, one of the victims of intimidation and harassment was Rev. Fr. Jose Francisco Talaban, the parish priest of Nuestra Señora de Salvacion parish and a staunch critic of the Apeco project.
Relative to this, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano will file a bill that will scrap Republic Act 10083, or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act of 2010.
Mariano said in a press statement that RA 10083 is a gross violation of the Article II, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution that provides for the comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform, as well as the Sections 1, 2 and 4 of the Article XIII of the Constitution, all under the Social Justice and Human Rights of the highest law of the land.
“The law also violated the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657), the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371), and the Fisheries Code of 1998 (RA 8550). It is implicit in paragraph (h), Section 12 of Republic Act No. 10083 that the Aurora Ecozone can borrow funds from foreign sources and incur indebtedness without need of the concurrence of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). This provision is contrary to Section 21, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Additionally, paragraph (n), Section 12 of Republic Act No. 10083 authorizes foreign investors under the guise of private enterprises to operate public utilities. This is in flagrant contravention of Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution," Mariano said.
The bill is set to be filed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.
The APECO project is a pet project initiated by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara and Gov. Bella J. Angara-Castillo. The project has begun in 2008 after a law was enacted creating the APECO in 2010. The said legislation was penned by the father-and-son tandem to stimulate progress in Northeastern Luzon and to bring thousands of jobs in the place.
The ecozone vision is set to be 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.
APECO’s mission is 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. (Jason de Asis)


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