1-M hectares of lands in Central Luzon, Northern Luzon to be developed by Aurora economic zone
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, December 9, 2010–No less than one million hectares of vast, still undeveloped idle lands in the fringes of Central Luzon and Northern Luzon will open up to trade, commerce and agricultural development with the operations of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO).

This was stressed by Sen. Edgardo Angara during a hearing of the Senate sub-committee on finance on the proposed 2011 budget of APECO and the Department of Trade and Industry at the Senate.

Facing interpellation from Sen. Sergio Osmeña, Angara defended the ecozone project amid criticisms it was carried out without any feasibility study and without due consultation with the affected communities, particularly cultural minorities occupying several thousands of hectares of ancestral lands.

Angara said the opening of Apeco will potentially open up to future investments one million hectares of lands in Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija and Isabela and provide access to their agricultural products, goods and services.

“This opening of the Pacific will open up the northeastern corner of the Philippines which remains undeveloped for three centuries,” he said.

Osmeña during the hearing decried that there appears to be no feasibility study ever undertaken to ensure the success of APECO. “As a businessman, I am going to require a feasibility study. We can have motherhood statements but without a study, there is no guarantee it will succeed,” he said.

He cited the Zamboanga Free Trade Zone where government spent P950 million but was only able to establish bowling alleys and clubs instead of investors. “I don’t buy the argument that if you build, they will come,” he said.

But Angara replied that Osmeña was being pessimistic in his view of the Aurora economic zone, saying if this attitude is followed, then China would not have flourished and progressed as an economic power. He recalled that when Chinese leader Deng Xiao Peng visited the Chezhen River near Hong Kong, he found it a suitable place to build a Freeport zone and the rest was history.

He said in conceptualizing the Aurora ecozone, they hired the best master planners from Finland, Spain, Taiwan and Korea which found it as one of the best logistics hub and transshipment point and an ideal site for a harbor.

He added that the P1.5 billion in government money used in developing the ecozone will be recovered in less than five years because of the businesses that will be generated in its operation. (Jason de Asis)