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Leadership changes anew in Aurora ecozone

/ 12:30 AM February 23, 2016

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The head of a controversial economic zone and free port in northern Aurora province has resigned, the sixth top official to leave since 2008.

Lawyer Gerardo Erguiza, president of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco) president, confirmed that he had cut short his three-year stint to help in the election campaign of his relatives who are running in the May 9 polls.

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“They can always attribute reasons [for my leaving Apeco] but that is just that. I did not want to be accused of electioneering,” he told the Inquirer by telephone on Thursday.

His sister, Pearl Angeli Pacada, is running in what he described as a hotly contested race for Tarlac vice governor.

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Pacada, the former vice governor and a Lakas-CMD candidate, is challenging Carlito David of the Nationalist People’s Coalition and Miguel Rivilla of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino. Rivilla is a cousin of President Aquino.

Erguiza’s brother-in-law and an aunt are running for mayor in two towns in Tarlac.

Apeco critics have said Erguiza’s resignation showed the “unstable leadership” of the Aurora ecozone.

Fr. Joefran Talaban, parish priest of Casiguran and convenor of Task Force Anti-Apeco (TFAA), said in a statement that this “unstable leadership” was “just one of the many reasons the economic zone has been such a failure.”

Talaban questioned the national government’s supposed continuing waste of public funds for Apeco despite its “catastrophic track record.”

Apeco has spent more than P2 billion on infrastructure and operations since 2008 but without getting any investor, Talaban said.

The ecozone was expanded from 500 hectares in 2001 to nearly 13,000 ha in 2010 through Republic Act No. 10083 sponsored by then Sen. Edgardo Angara, a native of Aurora.

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The Supreme Court has not yet acted on a petition to repeal this law which critics said had allowed Apeco to encroach on ancestral domains, fishing grounds and farm lands.

In the same statement, Fr. Xavier Alpasa, TFAA spokesperson, said Erguiza had a “tough job” in “defending the indefensible.” The resignations of officials, Alpasa said, “have left the project in perpetual start-up stage, resulting in wastage of public funds.”

Typhoons in 2013 and 2015 also destroyed the P61.7-million administration building and a P100-million project by the National Housing Authority there.

The Department of Agrarian Reform stopped the housing project because several units were built on portions of lands covered by the agrarian reform.

Erquiza’s resignation took effect on Dec. 31. Israel Maducduc took over as new president.

“I have achieved my goals for the organization,” Erguiza said, specifically the “simplified priorities and streamlined routines” he introduced while running Apeco.

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TAGS: Apeco, Aurora, Aurora ecozone, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority
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