IN THE KNOW: The Aurora Special Economic Zone | Inquirer News

IN THE KNOW: The Aurora Special Economic Zone

/ 01:23 AM September 21, 2011

Senator Edgardo Angara. FILE PHOTO

The Aurora Special Economic Zone was created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9490, which aims to boost social, economic and industrial development in Aurora and nearby provinces.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Edgardo Angara in the Senate and by his son, Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, in the House of Representatives, was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on June 27, 2007.

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RA 9490 was later amended by RA 10083, which renamed the economic zone the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) in April 2010.

Covering 12,427 hectares, Apeco is located in the municipality of Casiguran, making it the country’s first economic zone on the Pacific Coast and the only transshipment port facing the east.

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The economic zone, which started operations in August 2008, seeks to promote tourism and encourage investments in aquamarine, agro-industrial, commercial trading, banking, outsourcing and financial industries.

Protest

But various groups led by the Protestant National Council of Churches opposed the project on the grounds that it would displace 3,000 families, including indigenous Dumagats, shift land use away from food production and lead to human rights abuses.

In November 2010, architect Felino Palafox claimed during the Senate subcommittee hearing on Apeco’s budget that the location of the economic zone was moved to a less advantageous site to benefit a property owner who was a provincial official.

Palafox also said the Apeco project lacked studies covering feasibility, business planning, engineering, hydrologic, airport planning and a seaport. He also questioned Angara’s involvement in the project.

Angara explained that it was but natural that he would be involved in the project because it was he who “shepherded” it through Congress.

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The senator also noted that Palafox was fired from the project in August 2009. He said the architect had already been paid P32 million for the master plan but still wanted to do a supplemental plan worth P12 million.

In April, hundreds of Dumagats, farmers and fishermen mounted a protest caravan to oppose Apeco’s establishment in Casiguran town. Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives; Apeco

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TAGS: Apeco, Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority, Aurora province, Edgardo Angara, environment, Felino Palafox, Graft and Corruption, Office of the Ombudsman
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