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


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].

The large majority of the local population, however, is much better off without the project and rather sees in the APECO zone a major land grab and a central threat to their lives and to the environment, as well as the end of their indigenous culture and identity [2;3;4;5]. APECO was established without prior consultation of the town major and local governmental units (LGU); without prior consultation of the people of Casiguran, and moreover, large parts of the 12,923ha concession area are located on ancestral lands of the Agta Dumagats indigenous. The concession was granted without their Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) [2;3], thus not complying with the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997. The APECO law was passed without a complete feasibility study and without consultation of affected communities [3]. Corruption during implementation and compensation processes has been evidenced [3]. Farmers who hold lease titles for years, fear that they will not be renewed anymore [3;4]. Mangroves have already been cleared and several hundred fisher families were evicted to make place for the coastal airport [3;4]. No less than 3000 families fear further displacement through the zone development [3]. Indigenous people would lose their ancestral lands, and with this, not only their livelihood source, but also their cultural identity [7].

There has been strong opposition by local groups, who organized public campaigns [3] and a 350km long protest march to oppose the project [2]. Local networks, such as the Anti APECO Task Force and the Resist APECO! Defend Aurora! Movement were establishment, which filed, with support of other NGOs, a petition to the Supreme Court to declare the APECO law unconstitutional and to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO). The TRO was however not achieved, while, as of October 2014 [6], the resolution of the petition is still pending. Meanwhile, APECO opponents faced heavy repression, including death threats and attacks by gunmen [5] and grenades [7]. On the other hand, development of the APECO zone, funded with public money, has moved forward.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:APECO Special Economic Zone on ancestral lands and fishing grounds, Aurora, Philippines
State or province:Province of Aurora, Luzon
Location of conflict:Casiguran
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
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Other industries
Specific commodities:special economic zones
Tourism services
Manufactured Products

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

APECO (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:12,923
Level of Investment:200,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3000 families
Start of the conflict:19/02/2007
Company names or state enterprises:Nan Tsan Industry Co Ltd from China - agribusiness, aquaculture
Industries Development Corporation (IDC) (IDC) from Philippines - forestry, energy, construction
Relevant government actors:APECO 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 Finance InstitutionsThe National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) (NEDA) from Philippines - economic development
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:TASK-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

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
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 mobilization:Development 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

Impacts of the project

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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:Local EJOs want to stop the project.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is going on.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)


Republic Act No. 8550 - Philippine Fisheries Code

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.”

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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

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

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

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

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

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

APECO website

Website of the local EJO Task Force Anti-APECO

Website of the local EJO Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora!

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Aljazeera Video on the case

The Guardian video on the case

Official APECO investors video

Other documents

Protests against apeco Source:

Protest march against APECO Source:

Anti APECO activists Source:

Meta information

Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update09/04/2015



Anti APECO activists


Protests against apeco


Protest march against APECO