Angara-APECO deserves positive development in the recent finance committee hearing

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 13, 2010-Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that the discussions were a positive development in the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the budget of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) as it gave deserved attention to the issues of concerned parties.


In the recent hearing the senator graced the participation of all parties concerned in giving the chance to clarify any misunderstanding and lingering doubts on the part of its oppositions where it was attended by APECO officials, members of the community, heads of Barangays, indigenous peoples (IPs) and local officials, adding that each resource person was given a chance to express their concerns regarding the major development project.


“To improve the livelihood of the people of Casiguran and nearby areas as well as preserving its rich environment is the goal of the Aurora ecozone,” Angara stressed that it will pave the way for sustainable green industries that will provide jobs and livelihoods to Casiguranins and IPs.


He added that this will preserve the natural environment in Aurora, mariculture, dairy, and coco coir to mention a few  are examples of the industries being set up which will employ locals and provide alternative livelihood and additional income to the community.


“There will be no displacement whatsoever of residents and IPs contrary to allegations by APECO’s opposers,” the Senator emphasized, adding that the manner of the resettlement is purely voluntary, just and humane.


The APECO’s opposers’ claims are not true and nobody is being forced to move. “The Aurora ecozone will not affect the Dumagat settlements,” he explained.


Angara wishes to redirect the minds of APECO opposers as it will take away people’s livelihood when in fact it will provide them better living conditions and more sustainable livelihood.


The Senator said that the ecozone has designed relocation and housing plan for the residents, allocating 23 hectares of land composed of 462 residential lots, 150 square meters each, elevated on stilts, with 36-40 sqm living space, adding that a community called “Nayon Kalikasan” is being put together with the support of Pag-Ibig and the National Housing Authority.


“The community organizers’ of APECO conducts constant dialogues with the Dumagat chieftains as well as community consultations with residents wherein APECO’s community relations focus on the preservation of culture and the arts, livelihood training and harmonious relationship with the Casiguranins and indigenous people,” Angara said.


“Social responsibility programs such as heritage mapping, feeding, medical and dental missions, and cultural and youth development programs are always undertaken by the ecozone management,” Angara furthered, adding that various locators have shown great interest in the ecozone such as Agro-industrial/Aquaculture, Domestic Air Transport Services, Eco-tourism Enterprises, Logistics, Shuttle and Cargo Services, Property Development & Real Estate, Port Management, Renewable Energy Providers, Urban Planners and Wood Processors.

This is the reaction of Sen. Angara after Sen. Sergio Osmena III and several residents of Aurora opposed the creation of an economic and freeport zone in the northernmost part of the province after the villagers and the indigenous people and local leaders had claimed that they were not consulted about the planned economic and freeport zone, which they feared would result in environmental degradation at the marine life-rich Casiguran Bay.


“It is better to put up an economic zone in Baler, instead of Casiguran, because it is nearer to Manila,” Osmena said, adding that he is wondering why the ecozone was placed in northern part of Aurora.


The Senator has been opposing the approval of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) for his worry that free ports have become the smuggling areas in the country.


Osmena also learned that Sen. Edgardo Angara is the chief executive officer of Apeco, while Angara’s sister Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and son congressman Sonny Angara are both members and might create a conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Sen. Angara stressed that there was no ground to suspend the establishment of the ecozone where he also denied that there was no consultation prior to its creation, adding that the ecozone was established during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos.


Angara said the accusation of former Apeco architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. that APECO was a wrong project at the wrong place and at the wrong time was only his judgment.


Engineer Rey Perez of Apeco told newsmen that the ecozone’s present location is more suited since there is already an old airport runway which was subsequently upgraded and which forms part of the tri-modal transport system that laid the groundwork for the operation of the ecozone.  


Meanwhile, APECO officials said that the ECOZONE is envisioned to be the first to serve as gateway to the Pacific and is designed to become a prominent transshipment port in the country.


It is also eyed to become a tourist destination, a model agro-marine center with a fishport, processing and canning provisions, reefer facilities and marine culture of high-value products and a center for research and development in marine technology and vocational trade with the establishment of a 112-hectare-campus of the Aurora State College of Technology and is planned to be a green community. (Jason de Asis)