Co-Sponsorship Speech | Sen. Joel Villanueva Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Act

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Mr. President, esteemed colleagues:

Ako po ay lubos na nagagalak na i-co-sponsor ang panukalang batas na magtatatag ng isang Special Economic Zone and Freeport sa minamahal kong lalawigan ng Bulacan. Bilang isa sa mga may-akda ng panukalang ito, tayo po ay nagpapasalamat sa ating sponsor na si Senator Grace Poe para sa kanyang sipag at dedikasyon upang tuluyan nang maisabatas ang Bulacan Ecozone Act.

The province of Bulacan has an undeniably unique place in Philippine and world history. The historic Barasoain Church in the great City of Malolos is the birthplace of the first constitutional democracy in Asia. Some of our nation’s greatest heroes and brilliant artists also hailed from Bulacan. Among them are Marcelo H. del Pilar, The Great Propagandist; General Gregorio del Pilar, known for his last stand at the Battle of Tirad Pass; the legendary poet Francisco Balagtas; celebrated composer Nicanor Abelardo; and National Artist Guillermo Tolentino.

Today, our beloved province is known as the “Northern Gateway from Manila,” owing to its strategic location close to the capital, making it an ideal investment destination. Bulacan has also seen remarkable economic growth over the last decade or so. In the 2023 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index of the Department of Trade and Industry, the province was ranked 8th, up from 49th in 2018. Further, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Bulacan accounted for 27.7% of the economy of Central Luzon in 2022 and contributed the biggest share to the Industry and Services sectors of the region – a testament to our province’s economic dynamism, innovation, well-developed infrastructure support, good governance, and of course, the greatness of Bulaceños.

So just imagine, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the great economic boost and overall development that the proposed Bulacan Ecozone will bring not just to our beloved province, but to the entire Central Luzon and the whole country as well.

It is estimated that aside from complementing the ongoing construction of the New Manila International Airport, the Bulacan Ecozone’s economic potential could be between P37.84 billion and P130.9 billion and could generate at least 800,000 jobs for our people.

We are also confident that the bill that will be passed by this august chamber addresses the concerns raised by the President in his veto message in 2022, as we have put safeguards to ensure that the creation and operations of the proposed Bulacan Ecozone are within the framework of national development plans, policies, and goals, and follow existing laws, rules, and regulations. More specifically, the current bill addresses the veto message through the following provisions:

§  The creation and management of the Bulacan Ecozone shall be in accordance with State policy on economic and social development and local autonomy.

§  Specific metes and bounds of the economic zone are provided, covering the Airport Project and the Airport City Project to be developed pursuant to Republic Act No. 11506, and the remaining land territories of Malolos, Meycauayan, Bulakan, Paombong, Guiguinto, Balagtas, Bocaue, Marilao, Obando, and Sta.Maria, Bulacan that are not yet included in the Airport Project and Airport City Project. It is also provided that subsequent expansion or reduction of the territorial coverage of the Bulacan Ecozone shall be made through a Presidential Proclamation.

§  Fiscal incentives for registered enterprises within the Bulacan Ecozone shall be consistent with the CREATE Law.

§  A cost-sharing scheme for the security of the Bulacan Ecozone shall be established to further address fiscal concerns.

§  The Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority shall be subject to the audit mechanisms under the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 and relevant accounting and auditing rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit.

§  Acquisition of lands distributed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program shall be subject to existing laws, rules, and regulations.

§  Management and operations of the Airport Project and the Airport City Project shall be in accordance with Republic Act No. 11506.

§  At ang pinaka-mahalaga po para sa akin, Ginoong Pangulo, bilang isang Bulakenyo, ay ang pagprotekta at pangangalaga sa ating kalikasan. Hence, we thank the good sponsor for ensuring that such provisions are carried in the committee report, including that the general framework for land use, planning and development shall maintain an optimal balance between economic maximization and ecological protection, and shall provide for the development of proper waste management and effective flood control and management. It is also provided that the DENR shall continue to have primary authority over environmental protection.

Let me also emphasize, Mr. President, dear colleagues, that the Bulacan Ecozone will not in any way compete with the other special economic zones in the region; but rather, it will complement these ecozones towards achieving the shared goal of national economic growth. We would also like to put on record that during the committee hearing on this measure, it was established that the Region 3 Regional Development Council supports the creation of the Bulacan Ecozone.

Our fellow Bulaceños can also be assured that under this measure, local autonomy and powers will be preserved and a mechanism for revenue sharing is provided. Further, to safeguard national interest and security, the decision of the Office of the President of the Philippines will always prevail in case of any conflict between the Freeport Authority and a national government agency in the Executive branch on matters affecting the Bulacan Ecozone, other than taxation, national defense, or security, which are solely within the purview of the national government.

Ginoong Pangulo, malayo na po ang narating ng minamahal nating lalawigan ng Bulacan. Pero tayo po ay naniniwala na marami pang maihahandog at napakalaki pa po ng potensyal ng lalawigan upang higit pang makapag-ambag sa ating pambansang kaunlaran.

With this measure, we will usher in more development in the province and Central Luzon, as well as provide jobs to thousands, if not millions, of Filipinos, particularly Bulaceños. We hope that with its eventual enactment, this vision will soon become a reality and Bulacan’s position as an economic powerhouse will be even more cemented.

Muli, nagpapasalamat po tayo sa ating sponsor, Senator Poe. Makakaasa po kayo sa ating isan-daang porsyentong suporta para sa pagsasabatas ng panukalang ito.

Thank you and may God bless us all.

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