IS IT time for a “great trespass” in Pampangaand Tarlac?
In the 1930’s in the UK, the working classes often took to hill walking (rambling) on Sundays, to escape the factories and the slums of the cities. Those who lived in the Northern industrial town of Manchester would often take a train into Derbyshire to enjoy the hills, valleys and streams. Some of the areas they chose to walk in were privately owned and they were often chased away by shotgun-toting gamekeepers.
In 1932 a group of ramblers decided they had had enough of this and they joined en masse to trespass across a certain area. Police were called, some ramblers were jailed. The event has come to be known as “The Great Trespass.”
A famous song “The Manchester Rambler” was written at the time by a 17-year-old Ewan McColl who went on to win a Grammy Award with “The first time ever I saw your face.”
At the end of the day the event led to a change in the UK law that allowed persons to use traditional rights of way through private land, farms, etc.. Here in the Philippines, by comparison, it has become increasingly difficult to enjoy the countryside around Angeles City.
An area of Clark I used to hike is now a golf course. Access to the East of the base wall is now restricted. Access to the Sapang Uwak area near Porac is now blocked by armed guards. The fences and prohibited areas near Porac are increasing almost monthly. A guard post has been set up near Sapang Bato but at least they let you through if you record your name in their book.
On Thursday 24th March I was out dirt bikeriding with two pals, close to Porac. We rode some trail that I have been riding and walking for 14 years since I came to live here. As you know, the area around Porac has fallen under an ever increasing advance of fences and “No Trespassing” signs. Ayala and LLL have already taken over the area that blocks the road to Sapang Uwak, an area that was previously free for countryside lovers to enter. It seems they have now expanded that area and now have over 1,000 hectares of land that was formerly simple greenery and/or farmland.
We found our intended route blocked by a guarded gate at one point, so we took another route that eventually took us to an SLEx underpass. There was a wooden trestle within the underpass, with barbed wire attached but no prohibition notice. The way was open so we went through. We then came to another guard post where the occupant jumped out with an alarmed look. He stopped us and started talking on his walkie-talkie. He held us there then eventually told us to turn around and go back. We arrived back at the trestle, now closed and we were surrounded by seven men, five with long guns.
We were delayed about 20 minutes whilst ID’s were taken and radios crackled until finally we were ordered out, following their motorbike rider to the boundary gate. According to the guards the land belonged to either Ayala or LLL, (which seems pretty much one and the same). It was not a very relaxing or pleasing experience.
I did a bit of internet research on the area and it seems that the farmer protests that gained publicity in 2014 have dropped away completely. Maybe they have been paid off or frightened off?
Anyway, how does one get a clear title to such a large area in such a short time? When the first tranche of land near Sapang Uwak went under the Ayala rule, it was alleged that there was some kind of title going back to Marcos days. Can you really believe that? Anyway, as a foreigner, I can’t get involved but it seem that there are few Filipino’s who really take an interest in these matters.
In parallel with all this, it amazes me that CDC can be promoting the “Clark Green City” (aka Concrete Jungle) to the North whilst Ayala is planning this rival development of something over 1,000 hectares to the South. Meanwhile, within Clark Base, the 177-hectare Global Gateway Logistics city area has attracted only two developments within six years, taking up only three hectares or something like that. Meanwhile, in the last 20 years nobody can produce a railway to bring all the folks North from Manila.
I was very angered by the incident I mentioned above. It is indeed one thing to despoil these areas of natural beauty, but it is another when ordinary folks cannot simply pass through them to enjoy the scenery that God or nature has provided. Maybe it is time for a great trespass here? The only problem is, that there seem to be few Filipinos who are interested in protecting the environment and their rights of access. I am reminded of the line in the song “Yellow Taxi” —
“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.”