Panama City, 30 August 2001. – Panama Canal Authority Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta proposed the creation of legislation to guarantee the rights of peasants who in the Canal watershed.

“The same juridical security that private enterprises require should be provided to the peasantry so that they (the peasants) may feel confident in the investments they make in their lands,” stated Aleman Z.

According to the Canal Administrator, this is “a debt with these persons and we are working towards this end in the ACP, because we deem it vital that the investments they make have a future value to their families.”

During ANCON’s annual meeting, Aleman explained his concern over the fact that this legislation does not exist and only 8 percent of the land in the watershed’s western region has been properly registered. Because of this, the ACP set in motion a special land deed allocation program to give the peasants the opportunity to be granted tenant rights over the land they have worked on for generations.

Referring to the studies currently under way in the western region of the watershed, Aleman Z. explained that these are the basis for the region’s development plan, a plan that will include social, economic and ecological factors, with the close cooperation of the communities. “We want real and effective community participation … governments and big companies no longer impose their views, that is not the reality, and that is not what we seek,” Aleman Z. stated.

Nevertheless, security studies performed in 1998 disclosed that the greatest risk to the Canal is the degradation of the watershed caused by man, so “solutions have to be provided to those who live there.”

Finally, and referring to the Canal’s watershed, Aleman Zubieta called on those present to “not lose sight of the future, because that is the only way we can insure a better tomorrow.”