Not another wasted opportunity

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

One of the first official acts of President Marcos caught many by surprise.

After all, it could have been avoided had our legislators and government finance and economic people made sure that all kinks and potential problem areas were ironed out and resolved before this proposed piece of legislation was presented to the President for his approval.

President Marcos last July 2022 vetoed a bill proposing the creation of the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone located within San Miguel Corp.’s $15 billion airport city in Bulakan, Bulacan.

Imagine the many hours, days, and months of deliberations and work that were spent as the bill went through all those hearings both in the Senate and the House of Representatives until the two houses approved it and transmitted it to the President for his action.

According to the President, contrary to the government’s objective of developing a tax system with low rates and a broad tax base, the enrolled bill will significantly narrow our tax base with its mandated incentives applicable to registered entities.

Apart from the fiscal risks, he said that the bill was in conflict with existing mandates of other government agencies and lacked coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations by failing to provide audit provisions for COA, procedures for the expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian beneficiaries, and a master plan for the specific metes and bounds of the economic zone.

Marcos also noted that the proposed economic zone is located in close proximity to the Clark Special Economic Zone, which he said is against the government’s policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations.

The vetoed measure proposed the establishment of the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority that will manage the Bulacan ecozone.

What the President and his advisers failed to consider is the big probability that the benefits to our economy that the said special economic zone will bring will more than offset whatever revenues government will not be able to collect because of the fiscal incentives that will be granted to the locators.

Big probability may be an understatement considering the huge names we have heard were interested to come in and set up shop at the Bulacan SEZ.

It’s good to know that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has refiled the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Act or BACSEZFA. And according to Zubiri, the new version of Senate Bill 2266 addresses and cures the issues of the President’s veto.

He also admitted committing a mistake when they passed some of the provisions of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) which of course came in conflict with some of the provisions of the vetoed measure.

Zubiri emphasized that despite being previously vetoed by the President, the bill remains a crucial catalyst in inspiring infrastructure development, attracting investments, and creating jobs in the area.

Sen. JV Ejercito also supported the creation of the BACSEZFA in a bid to spread development to the countryside.

For his part, Senate majority leader Joel Villanueva stressed that proposals to establish the new ecozone would usher in more development in the province and Central Luzon, and provide jobs to thousands, if not millions, of Filipinos.

The New Manila International Airport project is envisioned to be a world-class airport, with an initial capacity of 35 million passengers annually, and a target of 100 million passengers per year once completed.

Last November, the Department of Transportation said it expects the construction of the airport to start by the second quarter of this year, with land development more than three-fourths finished.

Earlier, SMC president and CEO Ramon Ang said that government stands to reap $200 billion in export revenues annually from potential foreign investors from the aviation, manufacturing, technology, education, healthcare, and tourism industries if the vision for the Bulacan Airport Economic Zone is realized.

He pointed out immediately after the measure’s veto by the President that the zone will be managed by the government and any tax incentives to be given to the investors will still pass the Fiscal Incentives Review Board’s review and approval process to ensure that these are aligned with the CREATE Law.

Ang noted that plans for the ecozone include helping create science and technology export hubs with the cheapest logistics cost because these will be close to the airport and seaport. They are also looking to attract world-class semiconductor manufacturers, battery power storage system manufacturers, electric vehicle makers, and even modular nuclear power assemblies and other new and emerging tech industries.

He stressed that the long-term benefits to the country of the ecozone would far outweigh and outnumber any supposed losses due to the grant of incentives to potential investors. These benefits include hundreds of thousands of new jobs to be generated, the transfer of technology and knowledge from foreign investors and locators, access to world-class education and healthcare opportunities and services, and the trillions in tax revenues coming from the various industries and institutions that will set up facilities and operations there.

These are opportunities for our economy too huge and important to pass up.

Pre-Valentine concert

The Manila Hotel is hosting a pre-Valentine special dinner concert this February 9 in partnership with Children’s First One Thousand Days Coalition (CFDC).

Titled “The Greatest Love of All,” this event aims to raise funds for the nutrition effort of non-government organizations helping government address malnutrition of Filipino infants during the crucial period from conception to their second birthday.

To be held at the Tent City of The Manila Hotel at 6 p.m., the concert will feature performances by Atty. Mike Toledo, former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea, and the hotel’s president and former senator Joey Lina. Also joining them on stage are performers Beverly Salviejo, Nina Campos, Jenny Sugay, Rachelle Rule, Rachel Verns, Pam Esquivel, Bobby Alvarez, Egay Rubiano, Jeffrey Panado, Egay Banaag, and the Adeodatus Children’s Choir (Baseco) with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. Music director is Rodel Colmenar while overall direction will be by George Sison-Tagle and Paul Dizon.

According to the hotel, “The Greatest Love of All” is not merely an entertainment spectacle but a collaborative initiative to generate funds for the nutrition program of NGOs in the barangays.

CFDC members include Rotary International, Lions Club International, Kiwanis International, Junior Chamber International, The Most Worship Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, The Fraternal Order of Eagles – Philippine Eagles, Knight of Columbus, Knights of Rizal, Save the Children Philippines, World Vision Philippines, Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, Philippine League of Government and Private Midwives, Crusade Against Violence, among others.

For more information on tickets andsponsorships, you can contact John Gacutan at 09620668526 or +63285270011 loc. 1006.

For comments, email at [email protected]

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