Fishers’group urges SC to decide on APECO constitutionality

AURORA-based rural groups and national organizations of farmers and fisherfolk today asked the Supreme Court to decide on a 10-month old petition they filed urging the high tribunal to declare laws creating the controversial Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port (APECO) unconstitutional.

Petitioners led by the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list filed an 88-page petition urging the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the controversial Republic Act 9490 or the ASEZA (Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority) Act of 2007 and its amendatory law—Republic Act 10083 or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port Act of 2010 on October 11, 2011.

The petitioning groups had also asked the high tribunal to effect a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction against the Apeco project.

“We are puzzled with extreme behavior of silence being displayed here by the high court. There is a paramount need for the high tribunal to settle the score on Apeco. But the case is dragging before the highest court of the land for best kept reasons only the court could disclosed at this point time,” the group said.

The group recalled that a letter of appeal was also sent to SC last May 21 urging the speedy resolution of the case questioning the constitutionality of APECO, but the SC has yet to reply on their follow up letter.

“How long it would take SC to decide on the constitutionality of APECO? One year? Two years? Three years? We will not play any guessing game here and the SC must know that,” the Pamalakaya official added.

The petitioners noted that provisions of RA 9490 and RA 10083 make no explicit mention of fishermen but the areas these laws subject to the establishment of ecozone cover the residences of subsistence fishermen and their fishing grounds.

The petitioners said pursuant to Section 3 of RA 9490 and RA 10083, the following land areas of Aurora are subject for conversion into a free port but are currently lands that adjoin the fishing grounds of fisherfolk such as the shorelines, bays and inland rivers of barangays Esteves, San Ildefonso, Cozo and Dibet.

The petitioners argued that the stretch of land bordering the shorelines of saltwater fishing of Aurora affected with the creation of ASEZA starting from the Southern tip of the peninsula of San Ildefonso going to Casiguran Bay to the opposite shore of the Casiguran sound is around 57.4 kilometers.

The petitioners also said another sector of poor people to be affected by ASEZA and Apeco is the indigenous people whose rights are also blatantly violated by the ecozone project. They said RA 10083 covers the areas being claimed by the Agtas and Dumagats in barangays San Ildefonso, Culat and Cozo as part of their ancestral domain.  They said Apeco will cover around 11,900 hectares of the indigenous people’s claim for ancestral domain in Casiguran.

The petitioners also asserted that RA 9490 and RA 10083 also violated the due process and the non-impairment clauses guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine constitution.

In their petition, they said the people of Casiguran who are directly and unduly affected by the creation of ASEZA and Apeco were not consulted or heard before these laws were passed by Congress.

They said no public hearing at the House of Representatives was conducted on the creation of economic zone. They said there was no forum for the affected sectors held to thresh out and address the possible problems and issues involving the creation of Aseza/Apeco. They also noted that not even the municipality of Casiguran was consulted; despite the fact it would be the local government directly affected the project.

“The railroading of the laws creating Aseza and Apeco at the House of Representatives and the Senate therefore is another violation of their right to due process,” the petitioners maintained.

The petitioners also said the compulsory coverage of farmers’ agricultural lands and residents properties under RA 9490 and RA 10083 constitute “taking” without due process of law and without payment of just compensation constitute violation of the constitution.


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