Just how serious is the issue of land grabbing in the Philippines to merit the attention of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of California Legislature under the chairmanship of Congressman Ed Royce of the 39th Legislative District.
Serious enough for the close to 50-member Foreign Affairs Committee and the first hand experience of its Chair who visited the Philippines recently to look into the matter personally as part of the fact-finding effort.
With a colleague from the United States Agency for International Development, he visited the place in question at Antipolo City, Philippines and did not like the experience that lent credence to the allegations.
The veteran congressman sounded his concern on the apparent injustice to land grab victims as gathered from an interview at Cal State Fullerton where he delivered a short remarks at a Grant Seminar that his office sponsored recently as part of a community outreach.
What he experienced during his exploratory trip in the Philippines gave him reasons to dig deeper into the matter and seek measures in order to correct the perceived injustice.
The veteran lawmaker has also gone to other parts of Asia to look into similar problem and seek ways from his end to find measures to correct the problem even if the areas of concern are thousands of miles away.
That’s the very reason for the earnest effort of the Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee of Foreign Affairs is inviting persons of interest who might be able to share their knowledge at an open field hearing on August 21on the subject of property rights and development in Southeast Asia at the Bronco Student Center of Cal Poly Pomona University.
From his official announcement of the hearing Chairman Royce said that for years, the United States has sought to help promote security and economic growth in the Philippines and Cambodia.
“While there have been some successes, many citizens in Southeast Asia are still denied basic protections under the law – including the right to secure property, raise capital, and participate freely in the economy”, he added.
The field hearing will seek to address these continuing concerns with some testimonies of witnesses who have been lined up and are familiar with the problem of land-grabbing and how it has impacted the lives of Filipinos and Cambodians and that of U.S. officials themselves who have been charged with promoting development in these areas. http://foreignaffairs.house.
Subcommittee Chairman Salmon said the hearing will “explore land tenure, property rights, and the rule of law in Southeast Asia and how U.S. citizens could be served better in protecting their rights abroad.”
U.S. AID officials in an article “Lessons from the Past: Securing Land Rights in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan” noted that “unequal access to land is a central issue that cuts across both rural and urban sectors in the Philippines and has been happening for some years now in Cambodia, China and Peru”.
U.S. AID has noted the in spite of the Philippines making a headway on its fight against corruption, the malady in the area of land grabbing still “is an ongoing tragedy”.
Witnesses at the hearing include in Panel I: The Honorable Jonathan Stivers, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Asia of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Mr. James Carouso, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and acific Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Panel II is composed of the following witnesses – Mr. Joey Quinto, publisher of California Journal for Filipino Americans, Mr. Richard J. Rogers, partner of Global Diligence, LLP, Ms. Faith Bautista, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Asian American Coalition, and Mr. Zosimo Laurel Contreras.
Congressman Ed Royce has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993 representing the 39th Congressional District which encompasses cities in Northern Orange County, eastern Los Angeles and southwestern San Bernardino County. He represented the 40th District from 2003 through 2012. He has been a friend of the Filipino and the Asian communities and is an ardent supporter of the nonprofits in Orange County.