By Manny Galvez Updated December 30, 2008 12:00 AM
[ philstar.com ]
CASIGURAN, Aurora – Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo has allayed fears that the government is on a massive land-grabbing spree in connection with the ongoing development of the Aurora Special Economic Zone in this coastal town.
Angara-Castillo said that officials of the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority will provide just compensation for landowners whose lands would be affected by the massive construction activities for the ecozone and that lands would not be taken from them unjustly and indiscriminately.
“Our critics say we are here to take away your lands. We will not do that. If ever lands will be taken, they would only be taken once talks and negotiations have been finalized. Wala pong pang-aaping mangyayari (No oppression would be committed),” she said.
She urged residents not to dignify, much less believe the black propaganda campaign being waged against the ecozone, a pet project of her brother, Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Edgardo Angara.
Angara-Castillo said that authorities would strictly observe the law with regard to land acquisition in the impact zone of the project. “There are laws to obey in the acquisition of private lands for government use and the Aurora Ecozone is no exception. They are going to follow the established laws, including the grant of just compensation for those whose lands would be affected in case the development of the ecozone site goes full swing,” she said.
She said the government has also laid out a resettlement plan in case communities will be displaced by the establishment of the ecozone. “We are trying to see which is the best site for resettlement, suitable to their conditions,” she said.
The governor issued the assurance after militant groups in the province claimed that the government is bent on seizing lands at the 500-hectare Aurora Ecozone site in Barangays Dibacong, Dibet and Esteves to give way to development activities, including the establishment of the administration building.
Among those reportedly opposed to the project are the Justice for Peace Action Group and the Multi-sectoral Action Group. The local Catholic Church also issued a statement assailing the alleged wrong process, particularly the lack of consultation, in the establishment of the ecozone. The pastoral statement said that the areas covered by the ecozone are occupied by legitimate settlers or farmers who, they said, will be sacrificed in the name of development.