Angara convenes first environmental coalition in Aurora

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PREMIER LAWMAKER and former Sen. Edgardo Angara convened a coalition of top government officials and leaders of people’s organizations, and socio-civic and faith-based groups to push for the protection and conservation of Central Luzon’s last forest frontier in Aurora.

The province of Aurora is a treasure trove of environmental wealth from ridge to reef, and harbors almost half of the region’s remaining intact forests, said Director Francisco Milla, Jr. of the Regional DENR in Central Luzon during a top-level meeting called by Angara and the DENR that would jumpstart the first-ever environmental coalition in Aurora.

“The province boasts of 60% forest cover and accounts for 42% of Central Luzon’s total forestlands, providing vital life support to local communities and habitat to a dazzling array of biodiversity, including the endangered Philippine Eagle,” he said.

Also present during the coalition meeting were 2014 Ms. Philippines-Earth beauties Dianne Querrer (Ms. Air) and Monique Manuel (Ms. Ecotourism) who expressed support for the coalition and who also marveled at Aurora’s breathtaking landscape and scenic spots.

Angara signed a commitment with the DENR to strengthen the province’s bid for sustainable development through the protection and conservation of Aurora’s remaining pristine forests, and the strict implementation of DENR policies and projects in partnership with civil society. 

He authored Republic Act 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act of 2007, establishing the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco) that would oversee the development of a 12,496-ha area in Casiguran town and the San Ildefonso Peninsula into a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, financial, and recreational hub in Luzon’s eastern seaboard.

The first and only economic and free trade zone facing the Pacific, Apeco aims to draw long-term local and foreign investments and create livelihood opportunities for the people of Aurora to ease pressure on its natural resources while playing strategic role to the country’s claim to the 13-million hectare Benham Rise off the coasts of Aurora in the Pacific Ocean.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) has approved in 2012 the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise, considered part of the country’s continental shelf and believed to contain large deposits of minerals and natural gas that could propel the country’s economic growth and development.