The global financial crisis has intensified an international quest led by economic superpowers to secure the natural resources they need to keep their economies afloat. Through neoliberal policies implemented by multi-lateral financial institutions via so-called structural adjustments and foreign policy that take in military and political aspects, control over developing countries’ economic and political structures have patently become even more expedient to the interests of U.S.-led geopolitical superpowers.

In response to these tensions brought about by neoliberal policies dictated by multi-lateral financial institutions, large swathes of land have been appropriated and transformed into areas that are more compatible with the requirements of monopoly capital from the First World. The Philippines is a key example of this phenomenon that occurs and multiplies throughout many Third World countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

The history of the peasant struggle in the Philippines is the longest and strongest in Southeast Asia. For over four decades, initiatives driven by people´s organizations (POs) and marginalized communities in The Philippines have suffered censorship and violent repression in their attempts at articulating or implementing new models for socio-economic production. This study will consider knowledge-and-culture-from-the-ground that are excluded from so-called democratic spaces.

A contemporary common notion of local context is destabilized and hijacked by the ways in which globalization’s capillarized processes affect the lives of people living in smallest, remotest, pre-industrial communities. These processes are evolving into a parallel institutional world for the handling of cross-border operations. The study will aim to identify what are the new territorial and institutional conditions under which estates operate.

The land-tenure conflicts that this project examines are consequences of policies that have been recently legislated by the Philippine government to encourage and promote economic development programs. In order to facilitate local and foreign direct investments, it has enacted laws to establish ¨special economic zones¨ and “free ports” throughout the country. These economic enclaves supposedly seek to encourage financial and industrial cooperation between the Philippines and industrialized countries, which then strengthens the Philippine economy´s link to the logic of the ruling global capitalist market economy. These economic zones, normally established in rural areas, are touted as ¨development¨ projects that aim to transform these areas into highly advanced agro-industrial, industrial, commercial, tourism, and financial centers.

The 12,923-hectare Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) is one such project. It is located in the town of Casiguran in the province of Aurora, situated on the eastern shore of the Central Luzon region facing the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

APECO is marketed as the ticket to economic development of the region, promising employment opportunities, environmental preservation and improved livelihood of the population. However, preliminary research and interviews with farmers, fisher folk, indigenous people, community organizers, experts from all disciplines and politicians show otherwise: extensive accounts of illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional procedures, violations of human rights and environmental aggression in the course of the implementation of this project, and its future plans have been uncovered. Preliminary research also reveals that despite the fact that APECO has been funded with incredibly large sums of resources and has been “operational” for the past 5 years, infrastructure is barely developed and no company has decided to invest there. The unlikelihood and incongruence of a free port in Casiguran boosting the economy of the province of Aurora has also become glaringly apparent as even the minimum infrastructure or communication networks required to set up industries are non-existent.