In the once tranquil Casiguran municipality of the Philippines, a special economic zone has been initiated by a powerful local political dynasty. There are plans for a deep water shipping port, and plans to develop the tourism industry in the area, while an air strip is already under construction. And it’s justified in the name of bringing economic progress to one of the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines. Sound good?
But the project has been embroiled in controversy ever since it began.
Thousands of farmers, fishermen and indigenous people have been challenging the project (known as APECO, the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport) since 2007. Research indicates that APECO has violated these marginalised groups’ basic rights: stripping them from the land, livelihoods and ancestral ties that they have cultivated for generations, and threatening massive environmental damage.
Several hundred fishing families have already been forced from their homes by the construction of the air strip close to the Casiguran Sound, a vital fishing ground.
Take Enrico. He’s a farmer. He doesn’t own his own land, but he holds a lease. Enrico fears that APECO’s presence means the lease won’t be renewed in 2014. This will effectively evict him and his family from the land they have farmed all their lives.
“I am afraid that they will ask us to leave, and abandon the lands that we have worked really hard on… We’re all afraid that our lands will be taken away from us, because our lands are where we get what we need for our daily necessities and the education of our children… if we don’t have our lands, our kids won’t be able to go to school.”
What’s happening to Enrico is a reminder of why we need to fight for better global rules around big land deals – urgently. Every six days, banks and private investors buy an area the size of London!
Oxfam is calling on the World Bank, an international standard setter that funds many big land deals and influences how land is bought and sold around the world, to step in and play a vital role in stopping land injustice. The Bank has finally acknowledged it has a part to play in tackling land grabs. Now, just before their Spring meetings, we need you to encourage the World Bank to take action. Let them know the world is watching.
Names have been changed.