DAR stops Apeco housing project
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Department of Agrarian Reform has stopped the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco) from further converting 2.5 hectares of irrigated agricultural lands into a P100-million housing project destroyed by Typhoon “Lando” in Casiguran, Aurora province, last month.
In a letter on Oct. 30, Darlene Anicia Galicia, provincial agrarian reform program officer, informed Apeco officials about the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by Arnel Dizon, DAR Central Luzon director, on Sept. 8.
“The CDO enjoins your company and all person/s acting under its command in performing further acts that would alter or change the use of a parcel of land within the Apeco area without DAR conversion clearance and forthwith directs the Apeco to respect and abide [by] the said order,” Galicia said in the letter.
He also asked Apeco to give access to two DAR employees who will monitor every week the compliance with the CDO.
Gerardo Erquiza, Apeco president, said the agency was not liable for illegal land use conversion since the housing site is within its jurisdiction and the project was done according to its mandate.
The housing project was undertaken by the National Housing Authority (NHA) for 400 families dislocated by Apeco. At least 138 houses had been finished, some of which were used as refuge during the recent typhoon, Erquiza said.
The Task Force Anti-Apeco (TFAA) secured the CDO following a complaint filed by Fr. Joefran Talaban, parish priest of Casiguran, and resident Vicente Convicto.
The DAR inspected the Nayon Kalikasan housing project in Barangay Esteves in May 2013, four months after the project started in January that year.
Fr. Xavier Alpasa, TFAA spokesperson, said the farmers welcomed the CDO as this removed the threats of illegal conversion of farms in the area.
“It would be more to the government’s interest to redirect the funds given to Apeco toward helping Casiguran residents recover from Typhoon ‘Lando’ and livelihood projects that actually benefit the community,” he said.
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