Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Statement on the dialogue between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Casiguran marchers

CASIGURAN, Aurora, December 11, 2012-APECO welcomes the opportunity for President Aquino to hold a dialogue with the Casiguran marchers. We ourselves have repeatedly tried to reach out to them, and we continue to hope that we can sit down with them in peaceful dialogue.

APECO is very thankful for President Aquino’s continued support and trust. This reflects the faith shown by the people of Casiguran in APECO.

We support the President’s proposals and vow to cooperate in the reviews he has called for. We are grateful for a fair opportunity to present our side.

APECO sees the people of Casiguran as its partner in development. It would be impossible to do any of our development projects without their support.

In fact, below are the actual statements delivered by residents and leaders from Casiguran during a press conference they held at the Senate on December 4. (Videos can also be viewed on APECO’s Web site.)

Renato Prado, Chairman of Samahang AKDA ng Aurora and father-in-law of Arman Dela Cruz:
“Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat. Wala pong katotohanan ang sinabi ni Arman, Kabulaanan po yon, Wala pong inaalis ang APECO na Dumagat. Sa totoo lang po sila po yung nakatulong sa amin, binigyan po kami ng kabuhayan po, tapos yung permit ng rattan binigay po sa amin. Ang sabi po nilang pinapaalis po sila, Hindi po wag po kayong maniwala dun hindi po totoo yun, anak ko lang po yung nagsalita nun. Nagbulaan lang po iyon para, siguro dahil sa kahirapan nila wala rin syang trabaho dahil isang pastor sya. Yun lang po yung inaasikaso nya yung pagpapastor nya. Yun lang po at maraming salamat.”

Ely Dipablo, Dumagat elder and former officer in Casiguran of the Presidential Arm for National Minorities:
“Hamunin ko po, mag-sabi sila ng kahit na isang pangalan lang na inagawan ng lupa ng APECO! Hinahamon ko po sila ilabas nila kahit isa lang tao kung sino ang inagawan, yun po! Bakit kinukunsinti ng Pari ang pagiging bulaan! Sila pa ang nagsasabi na ito ang isigaw? Wala naman pong inaagawan, walang inaagawan ng lupa, ewan ko po baka isang bao na lupa baka meron, pero yung pamayanan naming sinabi ko nga wala ho! Tahimik at ayaw namin ng gulo kaya kami po ay nananawagan sa media mismo at sa ating gobyerno sa opisyales ng gobyerno.”

Brgy. Captain Matrona Corbadura, Brgy. Esteves, Casiguran:
“Ngayon po, walang inaagaw na lupa! Kung gusto mong ipagbili ang lupa, bibilihin nila sa tamang presyo. Ang sabi nga po nila ang lupa ay nasa mababang presyo, hindo po! Sapagkat kami po mismo na taga roon sa Brgy. Esteves ay nagpabili ng lupa sa APECO sapagkat ito po ay kailangan ng mamamayan na pagtatayuan po ng housing.”

APECO is for development, and the truth is, this is a development for the people of Aurora, supported by the people of Aurora. We appeal to certain groups with vested interests to stop spreading lies that will only serve to jeopardize the future of Aurora’s people. (Atty. Malcolm I. Sarmiento, President and CEO of APECO)

The Truth About APECO

CASIGURAN, Aurora, December 11, 2012-APECO sympathizes with the 120 marchers from Casiguran and their supporters from other towns and provinces. However, they cannot possibly represent 3,000 households affected by APECO’s development, as the area covered by APECO, namely Barangays Cozo, Esteves, Dibet, San Ildefonso, and Culat, only has a total of 1,336 households. Hence, this claim is impossible and without factual basis.

Furthermore, these marchers who claim that their land was taken forcibly from them by APECO are, in fact, informal settlers in a school reservation owned by the Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT). This issue long predates the creation of APECO.

The 105-hectare property in contention was originally designated as a school reservation by virtue of Proclamation No. 723, issued by American Governor-General Frank Murphy on August 21, 1934. The Aurora National Fisheries School was created for this purpose. R.A. No. 7664, which created ASCOT, later mandated the integration of this fisheries school, and all its resources including the school reservation, with ASCOT.

While the ASCOT reservation is located within the boundaries of APECO, it cannot be utilized for anything other than its original purpose. APECO respects and honors this. The informal settlers’ claims of land ownership under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, and its extension program, is an issue that does not involve APECO.

Nonetheless, APECO has included these informal settlers among its housing beneficiaries under a program undertaken in partnership with the National Housing Authority (NHA).

It is true that there were 28 families displaced by the construction of the airstrip, which is a project of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). But it must be stressed that the CAAP has duly extended financial assistance, ranging from P55,000 to P154,000, to these families. They have also been included among the APECO-NHA housing beneficiaries.       

On the issue of ancestral domain, APECO has never conducted infrastructure development activities in any of the Dumagat settlement within its coverage. We have already sought the help of the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). APECO recognizes the existence of ancestral domain, and supports the IPs in acquiring their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). In fact, the provincial NCIP has commended APECO’s collaboration with the Dumagats and other IPs, such as skills training and livelihood programs.

APECO carries with it the mandate to acquire lands on the condition that it provides just compensation in accordance with law. That is what we have been doing. APECO has never resorted to the right of eminent domain or expropriation to acquire lands. Neither has APECO coerced any one to sell their land nor buy land at an unreasonably low price.

On the contrary, APECO has been buying lands at prices ranging from P240,000 to P300,000 per hectare, almost twice the assessed value. Lands that were brought at P600,000 were well-developed properties. Claims that APECO has been buying land for P45,000 to P60,000 per hectare are simply untrue.

We must emphasize that APECO has no intention to buy lands in the San Ildefonso Peninsula. We give due respect to the rights of existing integrated social forestry (ISFs) beneficiaries in the area.

The issue that APECO has cut 10 hectares of centuries-old mangroves to give way to its port is false and misleading. The port referred to is a RORO port that is not within the boundaries of APECO. This port was built decades ago, and rehabilitated by the Philippine Ports Authority as part of the previous administration’s strong nautical highway program. APECO has nothing to do with this port.

Regarding the supposed lack of consultation on the creation of APECO, all proposed laws are subject to public hearings and long public deliberations. This is the same process gone through by the laws that eventually created and expanded APECO.

We continue to conduct consultations to raise awareness on its development programs among the residents of Casiguran, as well as to seek residents’ proposals on how more effectively APECO can help them. In fact, on March 14, 2012, a municipal-wide assembly was held where 3,000 local residents signed a covenant for peace and development with APECO. This was followed by several barangay assemblies.

Finally, accusations of human rights violations against APECO are merely fabricated. We abhor violence, and have always chosen to avoid confrontation. We continue to talk to certain people claiming properties within APECO even without titles or proof of ownership. Though this has paralyzed important infrastructure projects, such as construction of the road network inside the corporate campus, APECO has chosen not to resort to expropriation or eviction, showing the extent of our restraint. We are there to build; not to destroy.

APECO values the residents of Casiguran. We want to help give a better life to the community through employment and livelihood. We are vindicated by the strong support of the real residents of Casiguran. In fact, legitimate IP leaders, landowners, fisherfolks, and barangay officials held a press conference at the Senate on December 4, 2012 to reiterate their support for APECO. Videos of this press conference can be viewed on APECO’s Web site.

APECO is for development, and the truth is, this is a development for the people of Aurora, supported by the people of Aurora. We appeal to certain groups with vested interests to stop spreading lies that will only serve to jeopardize the future of Aurora’s people. (Atty. Malcolm I. Sarmiento, President and CEO)

On the efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard, Eastern Mindanao Command and the Department of Labor and Employment in Mindanao

We are pleased to announce the rescue and ongoing medical treatment of three fishermen from capsized boats off the coast of Davao Oriental. According to a report from Secretary of Transportation and Communications Jun Abaya, the fishermen were rescued by a fishing vessel, Lady Gelaine, yesterday and subsequently fetched by a vessel manned by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that ferried them to Mati City. Peter Madlasi, Dennis Cudilla, and Rene Maulas are now in the provincial hospital of Davao Oriental. The three PCG-manned vessels that comprise a search and rescue task force will refuel at Mati City today and continue operations thereafter.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Mindanao Command led by Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia continues to coordinate inland, maritime, and aerial search and rescue operations. They are also helping immensely with the logistics and movement of relief goods.
More humanitarian efforts are pouring into areas hardest-hit by the recent calamity. Yesterday, Secretary of Labor and Employment Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz ordered the release of an initial Php 5.5 million for emergency employment and livelihood for displaced workers. The bulk of the amount, Php 5 million, will be given for those in Compostela Valley while Php 500,000 is for the Caraga region.
Once again, we call on our countrymen to be of service to those affected by Typhoon Pablo and give generously to organizations helping our brethren in the south.

More To Be Done For Disaster Resilience – Legarda

MANILA, December 11, 2012-Despite praise from the European Union coordinating body for humanitarian aid, Senator Loren Legarda said that there is much more to be done in order for us to become a disaster-resilient country.

“Officials of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) cited an improvement in the government’s response compared to last year when Tropical Storm Sendong devastated parts of Mindanao. While we note that this is certainly better, it is not our best. The best is to be prepared to lessen the need for response. The best is to have zero casualty,” she said.

Legarda, author of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, noted that Davao Oriental, which was awarded the Gawad Kalasag for heading the Best Prepared Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, still suffered immense losses from Pablo.

“It seems that even those who are prepared could not withstand the strength of our natural hazards today. Even communities who already have disaster mitigation programs in place still suffer from the effects of extreme weather events. This is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate our current strategies, and build on them based on recent events,” she stated.

The Senator, also the UN Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, expressed deep regret for the deaths and damages brought about by Typhoon Pablo, and urged local government officials to step up to the challenges.

“Climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and risk reduction constitute the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time. These challenges we can overcome if our programs and mechanisms in place actually address the specific vulnerabilities present in each community in the country,” Legarda concluded.


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