Aquino to meet with Casiguran residents, says priest
President Aquino and 10 Cabinet members will meet protesting locals from Casiguran, according to a priest

SOLIDARITY. Supporters of the Casiguran marchers congregate outside the Ateneo Loyola Heights campus for a candle-lighting ceremony. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III and 10 other Cabinet members will hold a dialogue with protesting locals from Casiguran, Aurora, at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City on Tuesday morning, Dec 11, according to a priest.

They will meet at 11:30 am in the San Jose Seminary covered courts inside the Loyola Heights campus. The announcement was made by Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan executive director Fr Javy Alpasa after a Solidarity Mass for the marchers at the Church of the Gesu in Ateneo on Monday, December 10.

The marchers have thus cancelled their planned protest march to Malacañang after a 6 am Mass on Tuesday.

Cabinet members who are expected to join Aquino in the dialogue include Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.”Tinutugunan nila ‘yung panawagan ng mga nagmartsa mula Casiguran na makipagdayalogo,” said Alpasa.

Inaasahan na sa dayalogo na ‘yon ay makuha na ‘yung mga hinihingi nilang panawagan, so sana matapos na bukas,” he added. 

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. The project’s main proponent is Sen Edgardo Angara.

Avestruz said the claimants have long been “informal settlers” in the area. In a separate statement, he said: “APECO has neither coerced any one to sell their land nor did it offer to buy land at an unreasonably low price. We have never even used the power of imminent domain to secure properties for development so as not to alienate residents. We want the residents to feel they are our partners.”