Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ecozone project to boost dev't in Aurora province

CASIGURAN, Aurora-The creation of the Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority (APECO) here in Casiguran, Aurora is seen to spur local economy in the eastern seaboard of Luzon.

Gerardo Erquiza, president and chief executive officer of APECO, on Tuesday lamented that the Aurora province has been increasingly isolated and neglected over the past few decades.

“Tourism is expected to boost as tourist influx to Baler has dramatically rose. Casiguran has much more to offer than Baler in terms of tourist spots and hotel owners in Baler are keen on putting-up hotel facilities in Casiguran to respond to the call,” said Erquiza.

Travel time between Casiguran and Baler was also shortened due to APECO’s Baler-Casiguran Road project, according to him.

The official was present during the Senate hearing on the proposed 2015 budget of the APECO. Its proposed budget amounts to P250 million.

While he welcomes a number of criticisms regarding APECO, Erquiza appealed for the support of its stakeholders.

Erquiza said they have always been open for “greater consultation and collaboration,” especially with people of Casiguran.

“What we need now is breathing space, not a choking point. Let’s not kill the ideas and visions that APECO has for the eastern seaboard of the Philippines,” he stressed.

During the hearing, Erquiza also dismissed reports that APECO destroyed the lives and resources of the Casiguran farmers.

Renato Prado, chairman of Samahang AKDA ng Aurora, in a press conference at the Senate December last year, debunked land-grabbing claims against APECO.

“Wala pong katotohanan. Wala pong inaalis ang APECO na Dumagat. Sa totoo lang po sila po ‘yung nakatulong sa amin, binigyan po kami ng kabuhayan po,” said Prado.

Ely Dipablo, a Dumagat elder and former officer of Presidential Aim for National Minorities in Casiguran, echoed Prado’s statement.

“Hamunin ko po. Magsabi sila ng kahit na isang pangalan ang na inagawan ng lupa ng APECO. Hinahamon kop o sila ilabas nila kahit isa lang tao kung sino ang inagawan. Walang inagawan ng lupa,” he said. 

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