MANILA, Philippines—Senator Edgardo Angara has invited his fellow senator Sergio Osmeña III to visit Casiguran, Aurora, and see for himself whether his allegations against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) are correct.
“I would like to invite Mr. Vicious to come and visit Aurora so he doesn’t make these wild allegations,” Angara said.
“When we inaugurate the airstrip next year, we will give (Osmeña) a free pass. And we’ll even charter a small plane for him, perhaps a Cessna from Cebu to Baler,” Angara added sarcastically.
Osmeña earlier threatened to block Apeco’s P353-million budget for 2013 after noting that the freeport zone had not attracted investors given its distance and lack of electricity.
Osmeña also brought to a news conference resource persons who alleged that Apeco had been forcing them to sell their lands for its expansion and that Angara and his relatives had been the ones behind Apeco.
On Wednesday night, however, Osmeña’s staff said he would move instead to reduce Apeco’s allocation next year to only P10 million.
“I cannot understand why Senator Osmeña is so malicious and vicious towards the development of Aurora. Why doesn’t he pay attention to Cebu?” Angara said on Wednesday of his Cebuano colleague.
Angara denied allegations that people have been driven from their homes so Apeco could use the land for its expansion.
“There is housing for 496 people who sold their property to Apeco because of the (construction of the) airport and the corporate campus,” he noted.
“In other ecozones, the locators build housing units for their employees. But in the case of Apeco, we built … resettlement houses for owners who sold their property to Apeco. In other words, they already got back their money’s worth, yet we give them a brand-new house plus guaranteed employment,” the senator added.
Angara also said that in January, “at least 500 people” affected by Apeco’s development would be provided jobs.
“There are jobs for the Dumagat (indigenous peoples) and the place is booming. I would suggest that Serge Osmeña, who is very fond of lecturing from the chair, goes there and we will invite him so he will see the actual developments … so he’ll stop saying that Apeco is for the Angaras,” the senator said.
Osmeña and resource persons he invited to a news conference at the Senate Tuesday alleged that Angara and his close relatives have been the only ones using the airstrip inside Apeco for chartered flights.
Osmeña said he learned that Apeco had invited potential investors to the site that he believed would not be commercially viable given its distance from Manila and the factories in Central Luzon.
According to Osmeña, the fact that Casiguran is located along the path of typhoons that hit the Philippines would also discourage investment in the area.
Angara has countered that Apeco could only accommodate chartered flights at this point since there are no commercial flights to Casiguran yet.
When asked if the Apeco would be commercially viable, the senator answered, “Of course.”
“It will make money and is probably the best located zone of all because it is in an area that is undeveloped and is opening up development towards that area,” Angara said.
“With Apeco opening, we are in effect unlocking the potential of almost one million hectares of land and sea. As you can see, there is not a seaport or airport in the Pacific as modern as this one and therefore we will provide the gateway to the Pacific and we will open up an alternate route for the people of Cagayan Valley,” he added.
Angara asked Osmeña to read up on his geography, noting that a check with the weather bureau showed that in the past five years, 16 disturbances directly passed Metro Manila while only six passed Aurora.
“Aurora is always mentioned when there is a disturbance coming from the Pacific because the central weather forecasting of Pagasa is located in Baler and naturally when there is a disturbance, the (area) is used as reference point. That kind of ignorance that Osmeña is saying should already stop,” Angara said.