Robredo asked to ‘reconsider’ support of New Clark City as project displaces Aetas

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Philippines' Vice President and opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo greets supporters during a campaign rally in the business district of Pasig city, suburban Manila on March 20, 2022. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP) (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)
Philippines' Vice President and opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo greets supporters during a campaign rally in the business district of Pasig city, suburban Manila on March 20, 2022. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP) (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups and netizens have asked Vice President Leni Robredo to reconsider her support for New Clark City after Robredo expressed her support for the project in her Tarlac sortie.

New Clark City, a 9,450-hectare development located in Capas, Tarlac, has reportedly displaced thousands of Aetas and threatens to displace more.

In a statement Thursday (March 24), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth) urged the presidential candidate to withdraw her support for the project as it "enroaches on the ancestral lands of Aetas that would result to their forcible displacement."

“We express our dismay over VP Robredo’s support for New Clark City. A ‘Gobyernong Tapat [kung saan] Angat Buhay Lahat’ (With an Honest Government, Everyone's Life Improves) should not leave our indigenous peoples and landless farmers behind,” said Melo Cabello, NNARA-Youth National Spokesperson.

Meanwhile, KMP leader and Anakpawis Chairperson Rafael Mariano said that “an ‘inclusive and green city’ that tramples on human rights of indigenous peoples and pushes them further to the periphery is contradictory to the call for ‘Makabayang Pagbabago’ (Patriotic Change) within the framework of Robredo’s electoral platform – which prioritizes the rights and demands of the oppressed and marginalized.”

The multi-billion-dollar project, one of the projects in President Rorigo Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, threatens to displace at least 65,000 people from 12 villages, according to NNARA-Youth.

A netizen said that the project’s contractors have redirected the natural flow of rivers, resulting in drastic changes and disturbance of the ecosystem.

Scholars from the University of the Philippines and the University of Glasgow, in partnership with community organizers and residents, have earlier established the project “Counter-mapping for Peri-Urban Social Justice,” in an effort to show the struggles of the farmers and indigenous people affected by the ‘green city.’

The study debunked the government’s official narrative that New Clark City would be built on idle land and no indigenous communities would be negatively affected.

Findings from the study revealed drastic changes in the landscape in the area, where former rice fields and agricultural lands were replaced with concrete.

Despite promises of more jobs, which is reportedly the main reason for Robredo’s support of the project, residents still worry about their loss of livelihood and land. Moreover, plans for relocation were not even discussed.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.

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