120 farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples from Casiguran in the Philippines are currently marching to Manila in hopes of drawing attention to a new development, which they describe as ‘legalised land grabbing.’
Although the Philippines has enacted laws that are supposed to secure tenurial rights for small-scale farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples, the sorry state of asset reform law implementation continues to deny them their rights to land, municipal waters and ancestral domains.
Such is the case in Aurora, a north eastern province in the Philippines. In 2007, a law was passed creating the Aurora Special Economic Zone (ASEZA) which mandates the creation of 500 hectares of lands into an economic zone. Barely two years after, the law was amended to pave the way for the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) increasing its jurisdiction to over 12, 923 hectares of agricultural and ancestral lands.
The lands encompass 11,900 hectares of ancestral domain claims (home to the Agta and Dum
“The land belongs to the people of Casiguran. They are the ones tilling the land. They need to be part of a development which is inclusive to everyone and not just for a few.”
agat tribal communities), 630 hectares of prime agricultural lands and 288 hectares of forest stewardship arrangements. Fisherfolk families living along the coastal areas have been displaced to make way for an airport. These are in direct violation of existing asset reform laws namely the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) and the Fisheries Code.
After a series of dialogues with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), participation in budget hearings in both the Senate and House of Representatives, dialogues with other government agencies, protest camp outs at the DAR office which all came into naught, the farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples’ groups of Casiguran in Aurora have decided to stage a march from Casiguran, Aurora to Metro Manila.
Dubbed as the “Casiguran March for Justice: Walk for Land, Water and Forest” the march is composed of 125 farmers, fisherfolks, and indigenous groups who will brave the heat, difficulties, and the challenges of walking a distance of 300 km – from Aurora all the way to Malacanang. Their 18-day journey hopes to culminate in a dialogue with President Aquino and urge him to repeal or modify the law.
Fr. Joefran Talaban who has taken the cause for the marchers and is currently the parish priest of the Nuestra Senora de Salvacion Parish in Casiguran, says, “The land belongs to the people of Casiguran. They are the ones tilling the land. They need to be part of a development which is inclusive to everyone and not just for a few”.
The marchers brave the heat and the long and tiring walk to Manila with hopes of having a dialogue with the president on December 13.
Follow the march
Under GROW’s land rights campaign, Oxfam in the Philippines is currently supporting and monitoring developments of the march. We will be continuously posting updates in this page and in Oxfam sa Pilipinas Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also “like” the official No to APECO
fanpage on Facebook.
Author: Jed Alegado
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.