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‘New Clark City to benefit farmers, IPs’

Farmers and indigenous tribes would be “the first and biggest beneficiaries” of the P607-billion New Clark City (NCC) metropolis being developed in Capas, Tarlac province, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said on Tuesday, amid scrutiny into the plight of the communities still left in the dark about the project.

‘1st green city’

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In a statement, Leilani Barlongay Macasaet, BCDA assistant vice president for corporate communications, said the NCC — reportedly the country’s first smart, green and “climate-resilient” city — would “create opportunities for everyone, especially the IP (indigenous peoples) groups and farmers who may be affected [by] the development of roads and other infrastructure.”

No ancestral domains

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The assertion followed an Inquirer report saying that tens of thousands of local farmers and Aeta tribespeople living along the 9,450-hectare project are likely to be displaced from their lands.

Macasaet strongly denied that these communities, especially the Aeta, would be displaced since there were no declared ancestral domains across the development area.

However, she added that it was making available financial assistance packages worth P300,000 per hectare, as well as in-site relocation sites for those affected by the project.

This was made clear in the Inquirer’s interviews with farmers who used to till the land along Phase 1A in Sitio Kamatis and Aranguren, who accepted these compensatory packages and were already relocated within the area.

Phase 1A nears completion

But they said these packages merely masked the threat to their living conditions and food security, as the farms that sustained them for generations were already cemented over.

Phase 1A, which is near completion, would house the massive sports complex that will be used as the stage for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in November.

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Macasaet added that it was in partnership with the University of the Philippines (UP) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to make sure the city’s master plan was “inclusive and sustainable.”

It also expressed willingness to dialogue with the research team from the University of Glasgow (UG) and UP, whose countermapping project was used as the basis of the Inquirer report.

The UG/UP team asserted that the massive project was a classic case of development aggression, in that the stakeholders were left largely unaware of the extent of the project.

Macasaet said they were in constant touch with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to ensure they would be included in the development.

But the communities are still largely underrepresented, because both the BCDA and the NCIP are only in dialogue with one NCIP-accredited Aeta tribe.

Changes to ecosystem

The UG/UP research also noted the drastic changes made to Capas’ ecosystem, like changing the flow of the Cutcut and Marimla rivers to construct a river park, compounded New Clark City’s natural vulnerabilities to landslides and flooding.

Macasaet said the construction followed the river’s natural flow as advised by the ADB, who also commissioned a biodiversity study to protect the flora and fauna along the area.

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TAGS: Aeta communities, BCDA, Leilani Barlongay Macasaet, New Clark City
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