Where is your promise? Priest asks Aquino

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MANILA, April 16, 2013— A Catholic priest has asked President Benigno Aquino III to keep his promise to look into their concerns against the country’s first economic hub in Aurora province. 

“We are really disappointed because the government backed out from the promise it made,” Fr. Joefran Talaban, parish priest of Casiguran.

He said that they are particularly asking the result of the National Economic and Development Authority’s review of the contested Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) project. 

During their dialogue with Aquino and some cabinet members last December, he said the government assured them that the review would be completed within two months.

“But until now, we are still waiting for the result. The NEDA should release it as what they’ve promised,” said Talaban.

Some 120 farmers, fishermen and indigenous peoples met with Aquino last year after a 350-kilometer, 18-day march to dramatize their opposition to the project. 

The priest said they are also asking the government to stick to its promise to grant 11,900-hectare certificate of ancestral domain title for San Ildenfonso Peninsula. 

According to him, the Aquino administration pledged to renew the Integrated Social Forestry contracts covering 288-hectares for another 25 years. 

He added the government also ensured respect for small fisherfolk’s fishing rights within the Casiguran bay, and the establishment of livelihood projects for them.

For lowland farmers, the government, he also said, likewise assured that the 105-hectare Esteves Agricultural Reservation cannot be converted to any other land uses.

“Four months after the dialogue, there’s no clear result on these promises,” he lamented.

Talaban along with the 120 marchers and other Casiguran residents are returning to Manila to demand the accomplishment of Aquino’s promises.

The group left the town on Tuesday and will be travelling by caravan. They are expected to be in Metro Manila by Sunday.

“The fight continues. We are going back to demand fulfillment of their promises,” Talaban said. (CBCPNews)

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