APECO Special Economic Zone on ancestral lands and fishing grounds, Aurora, Philippines

Development for whom? The APECO special economic zone, promoted to bring progress and jobs, faces strong opposition by locals who fear irreversible loss of livelihood and culture due to dispossession of their ancestral lands.


The APECO (Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport) zone, located in Casiguran, Aurora Island, was established by the Philippine government in 2007, through the creation of a tailored law, known as the APECO Act of 2007, with the aim to establish a special economic zone based on public-private partnerships and to attract vast foreign investment thanks to tax incentives. As the law states, “the Aurora Ecozone shall be developed into and operated as a decentralized, self-reliant and self-sustaining industrial, commercial/trading, agro-industrial, tourist, banking, financial and investment center with suitable residential areas.” [1]. APECO was created by the political elite of the Angara dynasty; Senator Edgardo Angara; his son congressman, later on senator, Sonny Angara; and his sister congresswoman, later on governor, Bellaflor Angara [2]. Promoted by the government under a strong pro-poor rhetoric, the project should provide the area with numerous local jobs thus strongly incentivizing local and national development [2;1].

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Basic Data
NameAPECO Special Economic Zone on ancestral lands and fishing grounds, Aurora, Philippines
ProvinceProvince of Aurora, Luzon
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Other industries
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific Commoditiesspecial economic zones
Tourism services
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAPECO (Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport) was created in 2007 by the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act, and amended in 2010 [1].

APECO initially only covered 496ha, but then was extended to 12,923ha when it was amended in 2010 [1]. The Special Economic Zone expands widely into ancestral lands, agricultural land and natural forests [3].

APECO plans to establish an airport, a deep water shipping seaport, resorts and factories, and residential buildings [1;2;4].

The first registered company in APECO has been Industries Development Corporation (IDC) [3]. Among other companies that expressed interest to invest and establish business in the area is the Taiwanese agribusiness and aquaculture giant Nan Tsan Aurora Ltd. [8].

The initially proposed investment size amounts to around 200 million USD. Funding is provided by The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Since 2007, it was estimated that around 20 million USD have been invested so far [2].

Around 3000 families are directly affected and would need to be displaced to fully establish the APECO zone [2].
Project Area (in hectares)12,923
Level of Investment (in USD)200,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3000 families
Start Date19/02/2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesNan Tsan Industry Co Ltd from China - agribusiness, aquaculture
Industries Development Corporation (IDC) (IDC) from Philippines - forestry, energy, construction
Relevant government actorsAPECO was created by Senator Edgardo Angara; his son congressman and later on senator Sonny Angara; and his sister congresswoman, later on governor, Bellaflor Angara [2].
International and Financial InstitutionsThe National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) (NEDA) from Philippines - economic development
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersTASK-FORCE Anti APECO; Walang Daang Matuwid Sa Apeco; Resist APECO! Defend Aurora! Movement; Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL); Panlalawigang Alyansang ng Magbubukid ng Aurora (Pamana); Justice and Peace Action Group of Aurora (JPAG); Public Interest Law Center (PILC); International Solidarity Mission; UP ALYANSA; Buklod CSSP; UP Economics Towards Consciousness; Akbayan Youth; Oxfam
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Agta Dumagats indigenous
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesLocal EJOs want to stop the project.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project is going on.
Sources and Materials

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
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Republic Act No. 8550 - Philippine Fisheries Code
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2007 APECO Law: Republic Act No. 9490 “An act establishing the Aurora Special Economic Zone in the province of Aurora, creating for the purpose the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”
[click to view]


[5] Task Force Anti APECO, february 2012: "The APECO Imbroglio and the Anti-APECO Struggle: A Situationer" (accessed 08/04/2015)
[click to view]


[2] Aljazeera online (04/11/2014) "The March to Progress in the Philippines" (accessed 06/04/2015)
[click to view]

[3] Petition to the President of the Republic of the Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino, III. on Change.org. (accessed 06/04/2015)
[click to view]

[4] Oxfam online "Land grabs in the Philippines: “It’s like they have killed us already”" (accessed 06/04/2015)
[click to view]

[6] InterAkyson.com (24/10/2014) "Monsod spells out arguments why Congress should stop funding APECO" (accessed 07/04/2015)
[click to view]

[7] The Guidon (30/12/2012) "Anti-Apeco: A struggle for land and life" (accessed 08/04/2015)
[click to view]

[8] Business Mirror online (27/05/2013) "Group opposes entry of Taiwan’s agribusiness giant at Apeco" (accessed 07/04/2015)
[click to view]

APECO website
[click to view]

Website of the local EJO Task Force Anti-APECO
[click to view]

Website of the local EJO Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora!
[click to view]

Media Links

Aljazeera Video on the case
[click to view]

The Guardian video on the case
[click to view]

Official APECO investors video
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protests against apeco Source: www.farmlandgrab.org
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Protest march against APECO Source: https://aurorafreeport.wordpress.com
[click to view]

Anti APECO activists Source: https://aurorafreeport.wordpress.com
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update09/04/2015