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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Hope for Bulacan Ecozone

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“Among the benefits generated from economic zones include transfer of knowledge and technology, employment opportunities, and tax revenues accruing to government treasury”

The government recognizes the role of the private sector in the country’s economic growth.

It is from the private sector that much needed investments originate.

Section 20, Article II of the Constitution stipulates “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.”

The Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 was enacted to encourage the flow of investors into special economic zones, among others, defined by law as referring to selected areas with highly developed or which have the potential to be developed into agro-industrial, industrial tourist/recreational, commercial, banking, investment and financial centers.

It further states an Ecozone may contain any or all of the following: Industrial Estates, Export Processing Zones, Free Trade Zones, and Tourist/Recreational Centers.

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Among the benefits generated from economic zones include transfer of knowledge and technology, employment opportunities, and tax revenues accruing to government treasury.

According to the Philippine Export Zone Authority, there are 419 economic zones in the country across all industries under the agency as of April 2023.

Of these 24 are agro-industrial economic zones, 297 information technology parks/ centers, 78 manufacturing economic zones, three medical tourism parks/center, and 17 tourism export enterprises.

Locators in economic zones enjoy both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.

On his first day in office, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vetoed House Bill 7575, “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport.”

Bulacan is site of the New Manila International Airport being built by San Miguel Corporation.

By virtue of Republic Act 11506, SMC’s San Miguel Aerocity, Inc. was granted a franchise to construct, develop, establish, and maintain a domestic and international airport in Bulacan.

The P740 -billion New Manila International Airport project will be a world-class airport that will be developed in phases, with an initial capacity of 35 million passengers annually, and, upon completion, a target of 100 million passengers per year.

It will have a transportation infrastructure network to make it accessible from Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon.

The project will rise on an over 2,500-hectare property in Bulakan, Bulacan and will include various components such as airfield facilities, terminal building, airport and airline support facilities, access roads, parking facilities, utilities, airport city, and other ancillary facilities.

It will easily be accessible from Metro Manila and Luzon provinces via a master planned infrastructure network.

When President Marcos Jr. vetoed the bill, SMC President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang remained optimistic the economic zone could still be realized and stimulate the country’s economic growth.

““We respect and abide by the government’s decision. We thank him for recognizing where the proposed Freeport bill can be further improved, and we look forward to working with his administration towards perfecting this. We are eager to continue working with government, and play an active role in helping our country reach its goals — as we have faithfully and consistently done,” RSA said.

Despite the decision to veto House Bill 7575, it was reported that President Marcos Jr. fully supports the creation of the Bulacan Ecozone.

Among others, the President’s veto message said the bill “lacks coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations.” The bill would also have created the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, similar to existing investments promotion agencies, to manage and operate the Bulacan economic zone.

Aside from PEZA, other investment promotion agencies created by law in charge of promoting investments, administering tax and non-tax incentives, and/or overseeing the operations of the different economic zones and free ports include the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Clark Development Corporation, Bataan Technology Park, Inc., and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, among others.

There is hope the Bulacan Ecozone will soon become a reality with the refiling of Senate Bill 2266 by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Last Jan. 31, Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, presided over the public hearing on bills establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport where government agencies, communities and other stakeholders were asked for recommendations to address concerns over the proposal.

As filed, the bill now includes safeguards and provisions to address the concerns raised by President Marcos in vetoing House Bill 7575.

The proposed economic zone is envisioned to attract world-class semiconductor manufacturers, battery power storage system manufacturers, electric vehicle makers and other new and emerging tech industries.

The ecozone is expected to add $200 billion in annual Philippine exports over the next decade.

The measure will propel Bulacan to be the next growth area for ecozones especially now that our economic prospects are brighter.

(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc., a non-profit group advocating tree planting and watershed protection. He is also a book writer and publisher of biographical and coffee table books.)

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