By: Balong A.

Casiguran Aurora—-hectares of agricultural land is amended for transformational change project and it will be taken from the hard working hands of the local communities consisting of farmers, fisher folks and indigenous people, who nourish, cherish, respect, and love the land. The said project will affect five Barangays in the municipality of Casiguran, Aurora province including, Dibet, Esteves, Cozo, Culat, and San Ildefonso peninsula –  the home of Agta-Dumagat tribe,  the first inhabitants of the place according to Fr. Joefran Talaban.
From APEZA to AZESA and now amended to APECO (Aurora Pacific Economic zone and Freeport)- this new law covers 500 to 13,852 hectares; will definitely affect the rice granary of Aurora province. Added to that, it will displace 3000 families in the region. One living proof is the family of Antonina Alejo who said that she was able to support her children and was able to send them in College, now professionals, from selling “talakitok” fish for Php 500 per 5 kilos. Another example is Maribel Castelo’s family who also got affected because her house was hit by the airport runway. She added that even they were just fisher folks and is able to eat three times a day, sometimes even more.  Philippines is an agricultural country – fishing and farming is the main industry that feeds every Filipino.

Local communities said that APECO will grab their coastal area and their agricultural land.  Furthermore, the development project will totally alter the landscape of the area eyeing to make it a commercialized area.    In Fr. Joefran Talaban’s statement votary to the people and his church who’s showing his defiance against the project said Casiguran is a very industry agricultural farm land it can harvest and provide 1500 metric tons of rice which enough to feed 3000 people a year. In the year 2007 when the project become a law AZESA sign by the late president Arroyo June same year upon the request of the Angara—Castillo. the rumors start in the local communities, the project has no consultation with the affected communities and the communities wasn’t know or have any further idea regarding the said law issued, they were just shocked that one day its start measuring their farm land—soon after that the communities and the LGU (Local Government Unit) conducted an actions and simultaneous mobilization disaccord to the new law— they file petitions to amend the law it climb up to the Sangguniang Bayan (Provincial Office) hoping that the law will amended, the priest also added that the people live in the affected areas are threatened as informal settlers specially the 800 families in San Ildefonso released in a newspaper paid by the Angara. In our visit, Fr. Joefran was busy updating all concerned regarding certain issue such as logging by the big logging company IDC. Because of his defer to the project, organizing people, information dissemination helping in regarding the technicalities of the issue, the priest receive menace and death threat the worst is when his convent was bomb early dawn round 1 a.m in a meantime when he was in deep sleep, he believe the suspect are so called goons of the Angara, lucky the priest wasn’t injured neither hit by sharp nails. Among with the other communities who express there contravene, he was also accused labeled as a member of the NPA (New Peoples Army) a communist crock group whose in favor with APECO even other big corporations for they could gain revolutionary taxes out of it.

APECO has not just only affect the communities living in the area it will also destroy the healthy biodiversity of Casiguran.  Marlon Angara a small fisherman and a farmer active member of PIGLASCA (Pinagsamang Lakas Ng Mga Casiguranin) or (Integrated strength of the Casiguranin) the strong organized group opposing the project, he said in our talks that big ports will be build and destroy the sea sure after that big shipping vessel  will consequentially pollute and constantly contaminate the sea causing the poisoning death of healthy coral reefs  which is food of the marine mammals and other aquatic marine organism he which source of food and income, manong Marlon also added that they’ll be no longer allowed fishing nearby, big fishing boat are only allowed, according to Angara they’ll receive livelihood program from the project, but he said what for? Why would I exchange my good catch, he expressed emotionally, he also added that they don’t need APECO it’s not for them it’s for the rich,

Like manong Marlon aling WAEL who’s livelihood is making and selling roof out of lobi lobi leaves which exist in tropical country said that the project show callosity to the small people and to the environment the lady added that since they survey and measured the area they start cutting clearing the healthy mangroves and shrubs it was disgruntled the people for its there only source of food. Mangroves is the shelter of crabs, small fish, shells and other organisms dependent in these natural habitat due to the contravene of the community the amputations of mangroves was temporarily stop, even also lola WAEL the first waves late 60s of Barangay Esteves emotionally tell her story that that before there was no APECO the live life simple yet contempt of what harvest from the farm, sharing with neighbors or trade,  before she arrive the place it was empty, meadow, and shrubs they develop the land and turned it in a productive agricultural land to support basic needs, she was upset that the encroachment of APECO it disarray there peaceful simple lives.
Behind these 1 billion detrimental projects APECO is the Angara’s political dynasty and other elites, Angara is authored the bill creating APECO. Edgardo Angara said it is intended to boots social, economics, and industrial development in Aurora and nearby provinces “APECO will bring the entire Luzon to the Pacific”.

In the sub committee hearing talking regarding the APECO’s budget proposal , Palapox who was the original master planer of the said project who seems consigning more funds in APECO will consequence to throwing good money after bad, Mr Palapox exposed in his definition,  according to hem there was not much or adequate feasibilities study or business plan done before it was undertaken he also added Wreckage either were any engineering or hydrologic studies done nor were there plan for an airport and seaport.and other group are opposing on the ground and it will displace more than 3000 families, including the indigenous Dumagat tribe, shift land use away from food production and lead to human rights abuses.  According to palapox the relocation site is flood prone area and liquefaction, and were directed to move the location further from the poblacion people will learn later that the is owned by Benjamin Mina, the provincial environmental and natural resources officer, Angara is running the show he added, “it turned out that the owner of the property is one of their owned”.

Due to the influence and dominion of the Angara everything runs smooth and clean as they desire, as being close friends of the late corrupt scum President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Year 2007

  • The Sanguniang Panlalawigan proceeded with its endorsement of the HB 10293 upon the request of current governor Angara—castillo. Without discussion among their constituents and ignoring continuing protest, their resolution incorporate he inclusion of the 500 hectares, covering barangays Esteves, Debit, and Dibacong in Casiguran. Angara –castillo sign aed the resolution on January 30. it was transmittedto both houses of congress as necesiteted in the approval of the bill. In a special session on February 19 and 20, 2007, HB 10293 and SB 2603 were consolidate and approve, and later signed into the law by the Pres. Arroyo
  • Massive protest and movement against ASEZA continued even after the law’s enactment. Through the initiatives of the various parish council and study groups, massive information dissemination and consultation were conducted to affected communities and stakeholders. A task force against ASEZA was created to craft petition, which was ultimately presented to Governor Angara—Castillo.

Year 2009

  • Representative Angara filed HB 6213 and Senator Angara and Miriam Defensor-Santiago SB3408, and amending RA 9490, further expanding its area under the authority of the APICO from 500 to 13,852 hectares. Theis would cover additional barangays Lual, Culat, Cozo, and San Ildifonso, the later has Indigenous people among its longtime occupants and has a pending application with NCIP (National Commission of Idigenous People) for CADT (Certificate for Ancestral Domain Claim). The consolidated bills were approved on 6 october 2009.


  • On 22 April 2010, the consolidate bills lapse in to law, RA

10083—which amended RA 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone act of 2007, by virtue PGMA’s inaction for more than 30 days upon receipt by the palace. The constitution mandates that if the president does not act on submitted measure, it will lapse into law.

  • To date, various mechanism were instituted to generate public awareness regarding the campaign against ASEZA, now APECO, including mobilization and assemblies, and lobbying media, civil society and government institutions. A national task force against APECO is currently convened by church group CBCP-NASSA and has conducted several dialogues and fora in manila to call for review of the APECO law.


  • strategic action is being planed to blow up a campaign on the national level, perhaps the action entail enough money to run, as of now they are in the method of initiative actions like banner dropping, stencil bombing, also a big anti-APECO caravan will be hilled to cajole more affected communities this coming April 6-8 2011 the campaign is part of their constant struggle to cloven the law APECO in the legal paper created by selfish politicians and elites, the caravan will expect participants from  the church, NGO, the farmers, fisherman and indigenous communities
  • By building big international free ports, airport, hotels, beach resorts, business infrastructures, malls, call centers, perhaps a City, it was said to produce transformational change to the area. But the
  • question is, at what part will the local communities, farmers, fisherman, IP’s be in the so called development? Their profession is farming, fishing, and hunting. However it is inevitable that it will only disgruntle the people, APECO has no public and environmentally benefits, it is purely corporate driven – private interest, businesses, foreign investors, and privileged minority who are dehumanizing, degrading and despotic to the low class people, no hesitance of using their dominions and influences.  APECO is definitely in the face of the enemy’s strong desire to exercise endless power and authoritarianism over the poor sheep of the pyramid of power structure under the guise of development.

    APECO Resistance - Farmers, Indigenous People, Outside Groups

    APECO Resistance - Farmers, Indigenous People, Outside Groups

  • However, despite the menace of the intimidating elites and lack of knowledge regarding the technicalities of the issued law, people of the communities and the Indigents are still courageous to end this corporate encroachment.  Their hearts keep upholding the true struggle for independence and self-determination. They still have the strength and social solidarity to defend their rights to the land they nurture, cultivate, cherish and love.

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