Senate upholds Aurora budget
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate on Wednesday night rejected Sen. Sergio Osmeña III’s proposal to reduce to P3.5 million the P353-million budget of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco) for 2013.
Senators voted 7-4 when Osmeña himself asked for a vote. Still, Osmeña demanded that Apeco officials submit documents explaining how they spent the estimated P2 billion in total allocations since 2008.
Sen. Edgardo Angara said Osmeña’s figure is “maliciously exaggerated” as total releases to Apeco only amount to P915 million.
Angara also invited Osmeña to visit Casiguran, Aurora where Apeco is located to see for himself whether the allegations he aired in a news conference on Tuesday were correct.
“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 2013 budget, claiming the Freeport zone has not attracted investors given its distance and lack of electricity.
Osmeña also brought resource persons who alleged that Apeco was forcing them to sell their lands for its expansion.
Angara said the accusation that people were being driven from their homes so Apeco could use the land for its expansion is not true.
“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 gave them a brand new house plus guaranteed employment,” the senator added.
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