AURORA PACIFIC ECONOMIC ZONE, Philippines – An official of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) yesterday welcomed the move of the national fact-finding mission of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines to look into the social impact of Apeco into the lives of Aurorans, saying this would vindicate the ecozone proponents in the end.
Ramon Fernando, newly installed Apeco deputy administrator, said in a press statement that the Church’s fact-finding mission will eventually realize that Apeco will be beneficial to Aurorans, being the country’s green ecozone geared to be a globally competitive and technologically advanced ecozone in the Northeast Pacific Sea Board.
“We honestly think this fact-finding mission will help enlighten, rather than becloud issues about the ecozone so that eventually, people will embrace it as largely beneficial for the people of Aurora,” he said.
Fernando came out with the statement after Fr. Joefran Talaban, parish priest of Casiguran town which hosts the ecozone, said the fact-finding mission would seek to determine its impact on the lives of local farmers, fisherfolks and Dumagat tribesmen amid concerns over core issues such as alleged displacement of residents, land-grabbing and non-consultation with affected parties.
The mission, composed of Church-based groups such as the Promotion of Church People’s Response, Discernment Groups and the Multi-Sectoral Action Group, started its fact-finding mission yesterday. It will end on Aug. 28.
Apeco’s development was approved by Congress in 2007 through Republic Act 9490 and was expanded further by RA 10039 in April. Laws creating the ecozone were authored by the father and son tandem of Sen. Edgardo Angara and Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.
Fernando said that while such fact-finding mission is most welcome, the management of the ecozone would highly appreciate the Church initiative if it would also focus on the benefits that would accrue from the ecozone operations and the efforts exerted by the Angaras in bringing it to fruition to end the vicious cycle of poverty in Aurora, which used to be in the so-called Club 20, or the list of 20 poorest provinces.
“With all due respect to our Catholic leaders, we hope they will help spread the gospel of Apeco to the people, as the saving grace of what once was known as the sleeping giant called Aurora,” he said.
“As spiritual leaders discerning of what is good for the greater number, we hope they will open the eyes of the flock, particularly those opposed to it that it will generate at least 1,000 jobs and tremendous economic opportunities not only for Aurora but the adjoining land-locked provinces of Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino,” he said.
Fernando said Apeco is the principal growth driver for Aurora and its establishment was the main reason why the national government infused P5 billion worth of funds over the last five years – or an average of P1 billion per year – for the setting up of a tri-modal transport system consisting of an international airport, a seaport and the concreting of the 120-kilometer Baler-Casiguran Road.