Manila Archbishop Addresses Marchers Protesting Government Zoning Project

Cardinal Tagle Expresses Support For Local Farmers

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MANILA, DEC. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The head of Manila’s Roman Catholic Church called on the government to take seriously the Casiguran marchers’ plea against a special economic zone project.

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is hoping that the sacrifice made by about 120 farmers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples, who marched for 15 days from Aurora to Manila, will not be in vain. "I hope that the whole country will listen to all of you," Tagle told the Casiguran locals in a dialogue held at the Ateneo De Manila University in Quezon City on Monday.

"I am also hoping I hope the voice of the residents of Casiguran paves the way for an examination of conscience. We cling to models of progress which do not suit us and will not give us development,” he said.

The Casiguran locals arrived in Metro Manila last Saturday in hopes of convincing President Benigno Aquino III to stop the operations of APECO, or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport project.

Tagle also assured that he is one with the anti-APECO protesters and will do everything so that the government will attend to their demands.

"On my own, I will try to help. This is an act of love, an act of peace and not of violence. This is an act of love for the family, for the land, for the sea and for nature’s treasures. I hope the whole country will listen," he said.

"We are going to raise your concerns not just to the President but to the entire country," he said. "And in case they will not listen to us, you are not alone, we are many."

APECO is a 12,923-hectare megaproject that although it was promised to usher in a new era of economic progress, has since been accused of transgressing a series of asset reform laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights’ Act, the CARPER law, and the Fisheries Code.

The protesters, backed by the Catholic clergy and several civic organizations, are representing the more than 3,000 families, whose land and livelihoods have been threatened by the project.

Among their demands is for Aquino to stop the budget allocation for APECO for 2013.

They also want the government to push forward the creation of an independent body to undertake review "towards a possible review of the APECO laws." The marchers headed to the city of Malacañang yesterday to seek an audience with President Aquino.