Angaras supports the repeal of Apeco law

By Jason de Asis


CASIGURAN, Aurora, January 31, 2011-Representative Juan Edgardo Angara of this province’s lone congressional district and his auntie Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo have opposed the move of groups opposing the Aurora Special Economic Zone and Freeport to repeal the law that created the ecozone.


Congressman Angara told members of the House committee on agrarian reform investigating alleged violations of the law committed by Apeco that he would welcome amendments to the law that created the ecozone whenever necessary but rejected the repeal being pushed by its oppositors, including Fr. Joefran Talaban, parish priest of Nuestra Señora dela Salvacion in Barangay Bianoan Parish here.


Angara, who authored Republic Act 9490 creating APECO and RA 10083 which introduced amendments to it, said that much sacrifices have been undergone by the leaders and people of Aurora in the crafting of these laws for these to be negated by calls for its repeal by anti-APECO groups.


Speaking during the committee hearing chaired by Rep. Henry Teves, Angara said APECO is an important project for the people of Aurora which should be supported instead of being opposed.


“I am against the repeal of APECO law because we have worked so hard to have it passed. If we could only have it monetized and sold, then proceeds from its sale would have made Casiguran extremely rich,” he said in the presence of Talaban and other Anti-APECO groups.


He said the twin laws covering APECO may be amended as the need arises. “But let us not destroy something that is good. Investors are watching us. Let us give APECO a chance,” he said.


Talaban, who spoke ahead of Angara, told the committee that their position to have the law repealed would not change.


The committees on agrarian reform and national cultural communities conducted the hearing after Akbayan Party-List Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello introduced House Resolution 417 directing the twin committees to investigate in aid of legislation the Apeco for alleged violations of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension and Reform and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.


Covered by the investigation were some 12,427 hectares of supposedly irrigated ricelands and ancestral lands of the Agta-Dumagats.


In the resolution, Bag-ao and Bello said the tribesmen have not given their free, prior and informed consent to the ecozone which encroaches their ancestral domain.


The resolution sought among others, a full and transparent accounting of the APECO budget and suspend any allocation and release pending the result of the investigation, review the powers vested on APECO that undermines the social justice provisions of the Constitution and improve the regulatory mechanisms on other special economic zones and Freeport created by law.


Angara said that while violations of the Carper Law and IPRA are valid issues, there are available remedies  to plug the loopholes and make refinements on the law that created APECO instead of resorting to drastic moves such as a repeal.


“It’s not our intention to trample on the rights of the people affected by APECO. In fact, on the issues of land-grabbing, our family put under the voluntary offer to sell 100 hectares of our landholdings,” he said.


Angara also denied the claims of anti-APECO groups that people in Casiguran were never consulted when the measure was being crafted into law. He said the original measure that created Apeco was filed in 1995 by his aunt, then Representative Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.


“Back then, there was already widespread consultation and it’s not true that the people were not consulted,” he said.


In a related development, the original author of the ecozone also registered her objection to the repeal of APECO law as proposed by its oppositors.


Angara-Castillo said proposed legislations creating special economic zones can not be passed without consultations. “In fact, we heard people from the DICADI area on their concerns during the deliberations,” she said, referring to the northern towns of Dinalungan, Casiguran and Dilasag.


The measure was however, vetoed by then-President Fidel Ramos 10 days before he stepped down from power. (Jason de Asis)






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