Spokesperson misrepresenting Casiguran’s Agta-Dumagat
This is written in response to the allegations of Conchita Descarga, a self-styled “Dumagat-Agta leader” of Barangay (village) Calabgan, Casiguran, Aurora (“Lies about Aurora ecozone,” Opinion, 5/23/14). We find it ironic that Descarga accuses Task Force Anti-Apeco of “nonstop rumormongering” against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco), when she herself has failed to cite any credible sources in her so-called “defense” of Apeco’s COA-documented anomalies.
In truth, readers of Descarga’s May 23 letter have just witnessed a public display of Apeco’s penchant for misinformation. To provide just two examples: DOJ Opinion No. 35 s. 2013 officially affirms that the 105-hectare school reservation within Apeco’s territory can be rightfully redistributed to farmers adversely affected by the ecozone’s activities.
On the very same note, the provincial agrarian reform officer of Aurora confirmed in April 2013 that Apeco had failed to secure any certification of conversion and reclassification of land, prior to its construction of housing lots on a 2.5-hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Esteves in Casiguran. Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Republic Act No. 9700), it is illegal to convert any irrigated or irrigable agricultural land without the permission of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
On Descarga’s incorrect allegations, we have already presented factual answers backed by official documents and data in relevant government offices as well as various media releases.
More importantly, Descarga’s letter reveals the degree to which she and Apeco have been misrepresenting the interests of Casiguran’s Agta-Dumagat community. It is quite curious that Apeco’s exponents have used Descarga as their alleged spokesperson for the Agta-Dumagat, when Descarga herself is only one-third (37.5 percent) Agta, does not speak the Agta dialect as her mother tongue—and has never even resided for any extended period in an Agta community.
These facts about Descarga are plainly verifiable in her profile (ID#8062–“Konsita”) in the official Agta Demographic Database of anthropologists Dr. Thomas Headland, Janet Headland and Rey Uehara. This database has chronicled the lives of 4,300 Casiguran Agta since the 1950s. The database is available for all to examine at the website of SIL International (http://www.sil.org/resources/publications/entry/9299).
Fact: Apeco is presenting questionable spokespersons to issue misleading statements to the public. It is this kind of activity that above all convinces us that something is rotten in the town of Casiguran—the Angaras’ Aurora-Pacific ecozone.
And that is why it is high time to stop Apeco.
—HANSLEY A. JULIANO,
Task Force Anti-Apeco,
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