Apeco protests huge budget cuts for 2015
MANILA, Philippines—The Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) protested on Wednesday the huge cuts in its proposed budget for 2015, saying it would dampen the growth prospects of Aurora province.
From the proposed P251 million, APECO’s budget was slashed to P45.8 million next year or an 82 percent decrease from the original proposal, its president and chief executive officer Gerardo Erquiza said in a statement.
“For decades, Aurora province has been neglected and isolated from the rest of the country,” Erquiza lamented, explaining that the establishment of APECO was meant to spur economic growth in Aurora, its neighboring provinces, and eventually the entire eastern seaboard of the country.
He said government’s infrastructure investments within Central and Eastern Luzon—including Baler-Casiguran provincial road and the 19 bridges along it — “made more sense with the establishment of APECO, acting like a rally point or growth pole towards which government pours its resources.”
The APECO official also cited a 2012 study by the Asia-Pacific Policy Center (APPC), which showed that the annual growth rate in Aurora province since 1993 for concreting of national roads was 197 percent.
“Much of this jump happened in the past decade. During that period, Republic Act 9490 creating the Aurora Special Economic Zone—the pre-cursor to APECO—was enacted and even more public investments were made in the province,” Erquiza pointed out.
He pointed out that cutting APECO’s 2015 budget would effectively push back the province’s growth momentum which has been spurred on by these government investments and is currently at a high point due to a tourism boom in recent years.
Of the proposed P251-million budget, Erquiza said, P178 will be devoted to basic infrastructure projects which include roads, electric power lines and fiber optics.
“Last year, NEDA (National economic Development Authority) itself said that more investments are needed to fully realize the benefits espoused by APECO,” he said, adding that steps are already being made to answer and resolve all the negative allegations made against the ecozone.
“We are paying extra attention to ensure that our actions are born out of greater consultation and collaboration, especially with the people of Casiguran. We were hit hard by Typhoon Labuyo last year and are working double-time to rebuild. Again, what is needed now is breathing space, not a choking point,” Erquiza said.
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