MANILA, Philippines - More than 350 kilometers and 17 days later, it appears that the Casiguran marchers' plea has been heard by top government officials.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters on Monday, December 10, that while no conclusive actions have been decided on, the President and the Cabinet have taken up the issues raised by 120 farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people from Casiguran, Aurora.
Involved in the discussions are the following Cabinet members: Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, Agriculture Chief Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Viriglio Reyes, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, and Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras. Also involved in the discussions is the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
"They have discussed the matter and they will be discussing some options which take into consideration the farmers' concerns," said Lacierda.
The marchers will head to Malacanang on Tuesday, December 11, to seek an audience with the President. Lacierda said it's uncertain if the President would meet with the marchers, but added that "at the very least" some Cabinet officials would meet them.
"Paramount is the farmers' welfare. That is something they discussed during the Cabinet meeting," Lacierda said.
From Aurora to Malacañang
The marchers started walking on November 24 to protest the Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority (APECO). They accused APECO of "legalized land grabbing" and human rights violations.
APECO deputy administrator and spokesperson Ken Avestruz told Rappler in an earlier interview that opposition to the project stems from misunderstanding.
“If it’s really true that there are some people who are against APECO, [it’s because] they don’t understand the project,” he said of the ecozone which covers more than 12,000 hectares in the town of Casiguran. - Rappler.com