CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines – 120 residents from Casiguran, Aurora march to Manila to protest the Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority. Locals go through the 350 kilometer march hoping the government hears their plea.
Bea Cupin reports.
This is 8-year-old Norman, an Agta Dumagat from Casiguran, Aurora.
He lives along the shores of Barangay San Idelfonso in Casiguran. But today his playground is this seminary in Cabanatuan City, 220 kilometers from home.
Norman is here with 118 other residents. They are on the tenth day of a 350 kilometer march from Aurora to Malacanang.
They started marching on November 24 to protest the Aurora Pacific Economize Zone and Freeport Authority. APECO is a 12-thousand hectare special economic zone that covers 5 barangays. It is the brainchild of the Angaras of Aurora.
Senator Edgardo Angara, Aurora Rep Sonny Angara, and Governor Bellaflor Angara–say the ecozone will provide jobs for Aurora residents. But marchers say it is “legalized land grabbing.”
Dahil pinipilit niya pong bilhin sa amin ang lupa na aming sinasaka sa halagang P60,000 per hectare lang po. Ang sabi ko po ay hindi ko binebenta ang lupa namin kasi ang lupa ay buhay. Paano po kung kukunin nila sa amin yan? Para nanilang pinatay kami. (They were forcing us to sell our farm land for P60,000 per hectare. I told them that I wasn’t selling our land because our land is our life. If they take it away from us, it would be like killing us.)
EVELYN TORRES, SAN IDELFONSO RESIDENT
They are against the kind of development APECO will bring.
Sa aming mangingisda nagkaroon kami ng agam-agam, pagkatakot dahil ang aming pangisdaan ay maaring ma-pollute gawa dun sa sa freeport na pinatayo nila. (The fishermen here worry. We fear our fisheries may be polluted because of the freeport they built.)
PIO TRESVALLES, FISHERMAN FROM BARANGAY ESTEVES
The walk takes them across different terrain–from unpaved roads to steep mountainsides. They have over 140 kilometers left in their march.
The march hasn’t been easy. Despite all odds, spirits remain high.
Yung una, nakaramdam ako ng takot, kaba. Pero noong pagdating ko sa kalsada, ay maraming pumalakpak… aba marami palang sumusuporta sa amin kaya naalis yung kaba ko. (At first I was scared and nervous. But I started marching and people started clapping. A lot of people were supporting us, I wasn’t nervous anymore.)
ERLINDA BITIGAN, NONOY’S ‘INAY’ AND SAN ILDELFONSO RESIDENT
The fisherfolk, farmers, and indigenous peoples of Casiguran are hopeful the march will be worth it. After all, it’s about standing up for their land, their livelihood, and the future their children deserve.
Bea Cupin, Rappler, Cabanatuan City. -Rappler.com