Natives lash at Aurora Pacific Economic and Free Port zone

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A group of Agta natives and other Casiguran town residents filed a petition before the high court asking the magistrates to annul the laws that created the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port (Apeco).

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The 69-page petition sought to declare unconstitutional Republic Act (RA) 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority (Aseza) Act of 2007 and its amendatory law, Republic Act 10083 or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port Act of 2010.

The petitioners were led by lawyers Ray Paolo Santiago and Eirene Aguila. They pointed out that said laws were passed without consultation from affected communities, approval of the local government and inputs from the National Economic and Development Authority.

“Apeco has appropriated lands given to farmer beneficiaries and has undergone conversion of agricultural lands, resulting in the loss of means of productions and displacement of farmers. It has appropriated lands without just compensation for the farmer beneficiaries affected,” it was pointed out.

It was argued that both laws violate constitutional provisions on social justice, local autonomy, agrarian reform, indigenous peoples, subsistence fisheries and economic viability for government owned and controlled corporation.

To support their claim, the included in their petition a legal opinion of the Department of Justice saying a portion of Aurora State College inside Apeco was agricultural land.

They claimed that the said laws has given Apeco “powers of both the executive and legislative branches of government.”

Cited as an example is RA 10083 which created a separate customs and taxation territory that can formulate its own tax and customs policies, grant permanent residency to foreigners, incur debts without the consent of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and even abolish entire LGUs.

In October 2011, a similar petition against Apeco was filed in October 2011 by militant groups Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pili-pinas, Anakpawis party list, Panla-lawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubu-kid sa Aurora.

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