BULAKAN, Bulacan–Government stands to reap upwards of US$200B 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, SMC President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang said.
Following the recent veto by Malacanang of House Bill 7575, “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport”, Ang expressed optimism that the vision for the ecozone could still be realized, given the many benefits it will bring to the country.
“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,” said Ang.
Ang, whose SMC is fully financing and building the P740 -billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project in this town, maintained a positive outlook about the decision, saying that if all the issues raised in the President’s veto could be addressed, and recognizing that the primary intent of the ecozone is for the benefit the country and Filipinos, its full potential could still be realized.
Ang added that the Bulacan economic zone, if approved, would be managed by the Philippine government, and any tax incentives to be given to investors will still pass the Department of Finance’s Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) review and approval process, to ensure these are aligned with the CREATE Law.
The CREATE Law was enacted to provide relief to foreign and local corporations already doing business in the Philippines, in light of the pandemic.
“Among our plans for the ecozone is to help create science and technology export hubs with the cheapest logistics cost, because these will be close to the airport and seaport. We are 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. We estimate these industries alone will add some US$200 billion in annual exports—a big boost to our GDP,” Ang said.
He expressed firm belief 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.
He said these benefits include hundreds of thousands of new jobs to be generated, which will benefit the next and future generations of young Filipino graduates, professionals, and skilled workers.
The transfer of knowledge and technology from foreign investors and locators, as well as access to world-class education and healthcare opportunities and services — industries the ecozone also looks to attract — would also be invaluable.
These are on top of the trillions in tax revenues that will accrue to the government for the entire lifetime of the ecozone and airport, coming from the various industries and institutions that will set up facilities and operations there, to take advantage of the low cost of logistics, incentives, and our country’s primary asset: a high-quality workforce.
“Incentives are a way for government to attract much-needed investments into our country, especially now that we are all pulling together to help our economy not just recover, but continuously grow in the post-pandemic era. This way, our future generations will have enough and better opportunities than we have.”
Ang also addressed the issue of NMIA being close to the Clark Airport, which was mentioned in the veto and was initially raised by the DoF under the previous administration, which said NMIA would “compete” with Clark International Airport.
Ang said that apart from the considerable distance between the two airports—Clark is approximately some 100 kilometers from Metro Manila—large and progressive cities all over the world employ a multiple airport strategy, such as Tokyo and New York, among others.
Anticipating the long-term population and economic growth of Metro Manila and Luzon provinces in the next 20-30 years, and taking into consideration the limited expansion opportunities for the current gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)—which only has space for one runway operating at any given time, compared to NMIA’s four parallel runways—-the country would need several airports to efficiently serve Filipinos, tourists, and industries, Ang added.
“What we don’t want is to repeat the mistakes of the past where we were not quick enough to develop new infrastructure, giving rise to overcapacity and congestion on our aging roads, ports, and other facilities, and even in our skies. Temporary fixes will not do anymore. We are building for the future, with a clear vision of a fully-developed and progressive, prosperous Philippines,” Ang said.
Ang said that regardless of the outcome of any further government review or action on the ecozone, SMC remains fully committed to continuing on its path of growth through nation-building, and building the NMIA—seen as the solution to decades of air traffic and land congestion that have severely limited the country’s growth.
“We believe in, and fully subscribe to President Marcos’ message of unity. It’s something we have always tried to demonstrate in many ways, particularly in times of great difficulty for our nation. We will do everything we can to help President Bongbong Marcos and his administration succeed, because their success is our country’s success. We look forward to working with them and contributing to their efforts to build our country back even better,” Ang said.
Airport not part of PBBM’s veto, only the Freeport Zone
Gov. Daniel Fernando said the investments in Bulacan is based on the airport and not on the freeport zone and he remain confident the vetoing will not dissuade investors.
“With or without a freeport economic zone, the establishment of an international airport remains a magnet for global investments,” the governor said.
SMC is now constructing its P740-billion worth international airport in its 2,500 hectares acquired idle fishponds in coastal Barangay of Taliptip and Bambang in Bulakan town.
Fernando hailed the decision of the President saying he knows better for the country. The governor said there should be a balance of livelihood so there will be economic development. “Tama naman ang Pangulo natin. Kung ano ang desisyon niya susunod tayo. Marami pang ibang lugar sa Bulacan na puwede pagtayuan ng negosyo ng mga investors,” Fernando said.
“We believed and support the President. He is correct that there is a need to increase tax collection. Our country really need high collection of taxes. Our budget now and in 2023 will sink because of the pandemic. There seems a recession in the budget. We only expect it to increase by last quarter of 2024 for the 2025 budget,” the governor added.
He said it is also the thrust of his administration to increase collection of taxes in the province.
Fernando said that in the near future, after a review had been made and the needed amendments were made, the President might then approve and sign the freeport zone.
Senator Richard Gordon filed House Bill 7575 on Sept. 17, 2020 and was approved in the third reading on May 31.
In an unsigned veto dated July 1 sent to the senate and the lower house, Marcos said, “At the foreground, fiscal prudence must be exercised particularly at times when resources are scarce and needs are abundant. While this administration recognizes the objective of the proposed measure to accelerate economic growth in the locality, I cannot support the bill considering the provisions that pose substantial fiscal risks to the country and its infringement on or conflict with other agencies mandates and authorities”.
Marcos order also said that RA 11534 already allows eligible enterprises to comply for and avail of tax incentives outside economic zones by providing a favorable incentive package without the need for creating new special economic zones subject to review and approval of the Fiscal Incentive Review Board, tax incentives may be availed by qualified enterprises and all be enjoyed longer if investors are located in less-developed areas”.
House Bill 7575 was the first law passed by the senate and the lower house that was vetoed by the President.
The veto order also said that “aside from the abovementioned fiscal considerations, the proposed measure lacks coherence with existing laws, rules and regulations by failing to provide audit provisions for the Commission on Audit, procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to Agrarian Reform beneficiaries and a master plan for the specific metes and bounds of the economic zone”.
“Moreover, the Enrolled Bill grants the economic zone authority rule-making powers relative to environment protection that is not found on the charter of other economic zones. It is also granted blanket powers to handle technical airport operations in contravention of existing aeronautical laws. Furthermore, the proposed economic zone is located in close proximity to the Clark Special Economic Zone which is against the government’s policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations”.
The order also said that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Regional Development Council III assert the need to thoroughly study and assess the costs to ensure that the establishment of the economic zone would be beneficial yo the whole country.
“Contrary, to the government’s objective of developing a tax system with low rates and a broad tax base to the Enrolled Bill will significaly narrow our tax base with its mandated incentives applicable to registered entrepreneurs. As the system would be rendered incapable of generating a yield sufficient to sustain the country’s social and economic infrastructure. The government would be forced to seek new sources of taxpayers who will ultimately bear the brunt of the burden,” the order added.
Lastly, the President said, “in view of these considerations, I am constrained to veto the above-mentioned Enrolled Bill”.