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The struggle for land in the New Clark City project, Luzon, The Philippines


 The Aeta people have been in a struggle for recognition and legal ownership rights to their ancestral lands in the Tarlac province of the Philippines. Aeta people live off of subsistence culture from the surrounding forests, rivers, and mountains. Their territories are ancestrally owned and managed. According to geographers at the University of Philippines and the University of Glasgow, documents show the Aeta peoples have inhabited the lands of the Central Luzon (approximately 18,000 hectares) for generations [1].

Up until 1997, there was no legal mechanism for indigenous people groups to register their lands following the independence of the Philippines in 1946. The ‘Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IRPA)’ was passed in 1997, allowing for indigenous people to apply for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Territory (CADT) to the government agency, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) [2]. The CADT grants communal ownership and management over the land, water and natural resources allowing for the rights to develop, manage and control [3]. The Aeta people have made three requests in 1999, 2014, and in 2019 for a CADT including 18,000 hectares of ancestral land. These requests have yet to be granted [4].

 In 2012, the Aquino government conceptualized the ‘smart, disaster resilient city’ to be built on 9,450 hectares in the Tarlac province of Central Luzon, with a capacity to hold 1.2 million people [5]. In 2014, the project received government backing resolution 116 passed by Congress [6]. The project is one part of a series of mega-projects happening in the region within the ‘Clark’ zone including another new city, an airport, the Poro Point Freeport and John Hay Special Economic Zone [5]. The territory for the project was selected in order to create another economic zone connected to the metropolitan region of Manila. Furthermore, the landscape has been selected due to its climate resilience, to provide a geographically safe place for investors amidst the climate disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes prone to certain regions in the Philippines [7]. The project is projected to cost 14 billion USD while generating P1.57 trillion annually, representing 4% of the country’s total GDP [19][20].

 The main government entity leading the program is the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). The role of the BCDA is to convert former US military bases into profitable investments. During the US colonization of the Philippines, constructing military bases was a key activity. Land was grabbed from Aeta people to make the Fort Stotsenburg (64,052 ha) and the O’Donnell (58,006 ha) military bases [8]. Following independence, the Filipino government made an agreement to allow the US to establish military bases across the country [9]. When this agreement was dissolved in the 1990s, the ownership of the land was then handed over to the government corporation the BCDA as these lands were classified as military reservations.

 A spectrum of domestic and international partners are involved in the New Clark City project for funding, construction, and management. For example, the Ahli Holding Group from the UAE will sponsor projects in tourism while a French company, Vivapolis will be involved in resource management [10]. The main financial institutions supporting the project are the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who seek to increase public-private partnership opportunities. The NCC was one of the main infrastructure projects developed under the Duterte government’s Build! Build! Build! program and a key part of the New Economic Zone [11]. Both of these government programs look to create a safe, stable environment for local and foreign investment, promoted by international financial institutions as the pathway for the economic development of the Philippines.

 The struggle over recognition of land ownership has been heightened as the NCC project overlaps on Aeta ancestral territory. Also, the Aeta people made a request to the NCIP to hold a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process for the mega-project. This process requires a full transparency of projects that is understandable to communities and has received a general consensus. However, many cases have shown the disregard for the FPIC process, including the NCC [12]. The main concern of the Aeta people is not only about encroachment on their land, but a dispossession of their farming livelihoods, indigenous knowledge of the land and ancestral territory to pass down to future generations [13]. The sacredness of the land would be destroyed according to the Aeta people, whose ancestors are buried on it.

 The BCDA reported to offer $5,900 per hectare of land and relocation sites for the inhabitants. However, land is in incommensurable to the Aeta people whose identity and livelihoods come from it [4]. Furthermore, it is unknown if the relocation site where the Aeta’s are moved to will be suitable for cultivation and hence would require a new source of income to support their livelihoods.

Since the beginning of the NCC project there have been reported experiences of forced displacement and destruction of local ecologies, including agricultural land [14]. These claims are backed as some argue that government projects including the NCC will reduce the ancestral lands of the Aeta from 18,659 to 600 hectares [15]. The project is estimated to impact just over 100,000 people living in the surrounding area [1]. The local ecology of the region has been disrupted as agricultural lands have been cleared and watersheds impacted, including marine life [1].  

 There have been reported incidents of violent displacement of the Aeta people from their lands including intimidation with guns by the military [1][4][13][15]. In early 2018, the as the country prepared to host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games lands were marked for clearance in order to build a sports complex. Individuals from Aeta who inhabited territories along the first phase of construction of the NCC were asked to give up their cropland in exchange for compensation [15].

 Approximately 500 individuals experienced seven-day eviction notices in 2019 made by the BCDA [13]. These eviction notices were justified on the grounds that the BCDA consulted the local government, however this does not include a representative from the Aeta people [1]. Once the eviction notice period passed, the people wrote a letter to the government stating that the former military constructed is ancestral territory and they cannot be evicted without consent [1]. Included in the document were documents from the Spanish government to prove the legitimacy of the Aeta’s ancestral claim.

 Outside of attempts to utilize the legal mechanisms of the Philippines to achieve socio-environmental justice, the Aeta people have formed alliances, protested, formed human barricades to block road access and ran community campaigns against the development of NCC on their lands [8][12]. The main requests are a recognition of their rights to the land and the halt of the NCC project [16].

As early as 2013 a social movement has formed across different groups in the region to assert their rights to the land in opposition to multiple development projects occurring in the area (see EJ atlas case: Balong-Balong dam). The indigenous struggles aligned with farmers in the area under the cause of land reform, creating the Kilusang Nagtatanggol sa Inang Kalikasan (KNIK) alliance in 2013. Different indigenous people organizations took part in this collective such as the Bamban Ayta Tribal Association, Pagmimiha Organization, and others [1]. A broader grassroots movement has emerged to fight for indigenous land rights in the Central Luzon. They protested and mobilized against the projects such as the NCC, known back then as the Clark Green City.

 In 2014, the movement of the KNIK gained wider support from abroad, resulting in an international peasant fact-finding mission (IFFM) led by the Kaisahan ng mga Artista at Manunulat Na Ayaw sa Development Aggession (KAMANDAG) and the Asian Peasant Coalition investigations of land grabs and human rights violations [1][17]. Furthermore, other initiatives have followed the Aeta struggle for the land, including counter-mapping initiatives [1] [18]. These organizations partnered with the Aeta people to support their campaign through reflecting land claims and dispossession of land through the co-production of different types of maps, mainly cartographic [18].

 Despite the development project continuing, the Aeta people and other groups involved in the struggle for land rights and reform persist. Community actions continue as the everyday struggle of the Aeta people represent their resistance to land dispossession.



Basic Data

Name of conflict:The struggle for land in the New Clark City project, Luzon, The Philippines
State or province:Tarlac province in the Central Luzon Region
Location of conflict:Bamban, Tarlac city, Mabalacat, Pampanga, and Capas
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

To be built on 9,450 hectares in the Tarlac province of Central Luzon, with a capacity to hold 1.2 million people [5]. The project is projected to cost 14 billion USD while generating P1.57 trillion annually, representing 4% of the nation's total gross domestic production (GDP) [19][20].

Project area:9,450
Level of Investment for the conflictive project14,000,000,000 [20]
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:65,000 to 100,000 [1] [3]
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) - Main entity managing the NCC
Filinvest Development Corporation from Philippines
Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp - railroad construction
Al Ahli Holding Group - tourism development
Vivapolis from France - managing resource development
Relevant government actors:Clark Development Corporation (CDC)
Department of Public Works and Highways
Department of Transportation
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB) - Support for the NCC through loans and a biodiversity impact assessment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Counter Mapping Philippines (Website:")
Central Luzon Aetas Association (CLAA)
Alyansa NG MGA MAGBUBUKID SA GITANG LUSON (AMGL) -farmers' alliance in central Luzon Philippines
Kaisahan ng mga Artista at Manunulat Na Ayaw sa Development Aggession (KAMANDAG)
TFIP ( Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples' Rights)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Aeta people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Refusal of compensation
Cultural events against development aggresion by Kamandag like the Ang Langgad Natin exhibit[21]


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Current proposals being brought forward is the recognition of land ownership by the Aeta people of approximately 18,000 hectares in the Central Luzon [1].
The Aeta are an indigenous people who live in mountainous parts of the Philippines. Aetas are considered as the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, preceding the Austronesian migrations.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:At this point in time in 2022, the Aeta people have not received the recognition of landownership and are continuing to be displaced by the NCC project. Their livelihoods are being upended by the development of the NCC project. At the same time, many alliances and group actions have emerged from this conflict protesting and documenting this socio-environmental injustice.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[2] Republic of the Philippines. Republic Act No. 8371. "The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997". (10.10.1997). Retrieved from:

[3]National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1998. Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act NO. 8371, Otherwise Known as "The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997".

[5] Bases Conversion and Development Authority. 2017. Clark, the vision of a modern Philippines.

[6] Republic of the Philippines, House of Representatives, Press and Public Affairs Bureau. 25.08.2014. House adopts resolution supporting the Clark Green City Master Development Plan of BCDA.

[9] Republic of the Philippines, Official Gazette. Message of President Roxas to the Senate on the agreement concerning American military bases in the Philippines. (17.03.1947).

[11] Build Build Build (n.d.). New Clark City - Mixed Use Industrial Real Estate Developments. Build

Build Build Website.

[19] Republic of the Philippines, Public-Private Partnership Center. BCDA to bid out first phase of Clark Green City project by mid-year. (14.04.2014).

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

[1] Lopez, P., Ortega, A.A., Saguin, K.K., Martinez, S., Angeles, F.J.C., Dayrit, C., dela Cruz Jr, B., Miguel, L., Garcia, Y.P.L., Montalban, P. and Martinez, M.S., 2021. New Clark City Situationer.

[7] Atty. Joanna Elieen M. Capones. (23.08.2019). New Clark City. Presentation given at the 8th ERDT congress, 'The Rise of Smart Cities and Communities'.


Khalil Verzosa

[4] Rappler. Aetas and New Clark City: Trampling on human rights of our first peoples. (10.12.2019.)

[8] Orejas, T. (2015). Farmers, residents left out in Clark Green City project?. Inquirer Website. green-city-project

[10] Ateneo Economics Association (AEA). New Clark City: Development for Everyone? (07.08.2019).

[12] Ambay III, M. (2016 October 16). Unjust: Why indigenous peoples are marching in the Philippines.

Bulatlat Website peoples-marching-philippines/

[13] Beltran, B. (2020, January 8). Philippines' 'Smart City' Threatens Tribal Displacement

[14] Manalansan, Carlo. (01.03.2022). 'Green City' drives violence on environmental defenders. Bulatat, journalism for the people

[15] Salamat, M. (2018, March 20). Aytas defend ancestral domain vs. quarrying. Bulatlat Website. vs-quarrying/

[16] Salamat, M. (2014, June 27). Military base expansion to dislocate Aetas, farmers. Bulatlat Website.

[17] The One who never gave up. October 6, 2015. Clark Green City: Sustainable Development and its Irresolvable Contradictions. International Festival for Peoples Rights and Struggles.

[20] AIBP. Philippines' Future Smart and Green Metropolis-Clark Green City. (26.04.2016)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[18] Counter-mapping New Clark City. (19.12.2019). Counter-mapping PH, mapping with and for the people

Meta information

Contributor:Haley Parzonko
Last update06/08/2022
Conflict ID:6037



Location of the New Clark City

Source: Wikimedia

Land use transition

Land use change in the New Clark City project from 2016 to 2019. Source from:

ironic meme "No native aeta will be affected by the new clark city to be built"

source: Kamandag Retrieved from:

"Did you know? 20000 indigenous Aeta are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods in central Luzon if the new clak city project continues"

Source: Kamandag Retrieved from:


Ayta women belonging to Hungey tribe braved threats in the barricade as Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) through Pancho Construction ravaged a large part of their ancestral domain in Sitio Sapang Kawayan, Barangay Arenguren, Capas, Tarlac. Source: TFIP. 2020 Retrieved from:

AKO ANG BUNDOK postcards "I am the mountain" at Ang Langgad Natin exhibit

Source: Aimee Valencia, 2019 Retrieved from: