The Aerocity project of Ramon S. Ang-led San Miguel Corp. will enjoy up to P118 billion in tax perks within its 50-year franchise, involving construction, operations and maintenance of the 500-hectare airport facility in Bulacan.
During plenary deliberations at the Senate on Thursday, Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of Committee on Public Services, defended the tax exemptions, saying Filipinos stand to greatly benefit from the grant of franchise to San Miguel Aerocity Inc. for the construction of the international airport.
Poe stressed that the construction of the new airport is not only about the country’s future but rather involves a government obligation long overdue.
"Ang kakayahan ng mga paliparan na lumikha ng trabaho at magpayabong ng turismo ay mahalaga lalo na ngayong tayo'y lubhang apektado ng pandemya," explained Poe.
She added that construction of the airport will start immediately as soon as the franchise is approved, and that the project is expected to be completed within 12 years.
The airport will be turned over to the government without cost when the franchise expires after 50 years.
Poe confirmed that the SMC Aerocity will be exempt from direct and indirect taxes amounting to some P38 billion during the project’s 10-year construction.
During the remaining 40 years, the firm will be exempted from income and property taxes amounting to some P2 billion annually.
This totals to a tax exemption of P118-billion within the 50 years covered by the franchise, which was approved by the House of
Representatives and is now being deliberated on by the Senate.
The interpellation with Poe was temporarily suspended.
On Monday, October 5, Poe is set to question minority Senators Risa Honteveros and Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on their views on the airport.
Advocacy groups are expected to assail what they call the "undue favor" given by Congress to a private company and the claims the Bulacan airport will not cost taxpayers’ money.
“Walang gastos ang gobyerno? Eh, ano ang tawag sa libreng buwis na umaabot ng bilyon-bilyong-piso?,” asked the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance (FLAGG).
The group Action for Economic Reforms earlier asked the Senate to junk the excessive tax exemptions given to SMC Aerocity. It said these violate financial provisions and are detrimental to the interest of
Filipinos suffering amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.
“Malinaw sa panuntunan ng gobyerno na hindi dapat ikompromiso ang public funds, kinita na o kikitain pa lamang. sa pagseguro o pagsuporta sa mga bayarin para sa tax at regulatory compliance ng pribadong negosyo,” said FLAGG.
Aside from the tax to be imposed after the airport firm recovers its investment, the government will have a 12-percent share of its profits.
Poe added that the Bulacan airport will also decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila and give jobs to Filipinos, particularly returning overseas Filipino workers sent home due to the pandemic.