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Business

Ang still hopeful of ecozone status for Bulacan airport

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Corp. president and CEO Ramon Ang said he respects the decision of President Marcos to veto the bill establishing Bulacan Airport City as a special economic zone, but expressed optimism the issues would be clarified.

“It is the President’s prerogative to veto the bill and we respect and abide by his decision. We fully support President Marcos and the new administration. We are eager to contribute and continue working with the government, and play an active role in helping our country reach its goals – as we have always faithfully and consistently done,” Ang said over the weekend.

The government, he said, stands to reap the minimum $200 billion in export revenues annually from potential foreign investors in the planned economic zone complex – from the aviation, manufacturing, technology, education, healthcare, and tourism industries – if the vision for the Bulacan Airport Economic Zone is realized.

Marcos vetoed House Bill 7575, “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport,” a measure filed by his sister Sen. Imee Marcos in 2020.

Sen. Marcos defended the decision of her brother, saying “it was purely professional and nothing personal.’’

The senator also said the veto was based on the policy of former finance chief Carlos Dominguez since  2016 to ban the establishment of ecozones to minimize forgone revenue of the government. She said, however, that forgone revenue applies when such an income stream already exists.

Sen. Marcos said HB 7575 or the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Act if enacted into law could have provided job opportunities as the country tried to recover from the reeling effect of the pandemic.

She said the project  is expected to provide job opportunities not only to residents of Bulacan, but also the nearby  provinces like Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija.

Ang, whose conglomerate is fully financing and building the P740-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project in Bulacan, said that if all the issues raised in the President’s veto could be properly clarified, addressed or resolved, it would be easy to see that the intention for the ecozone is for it to greatly benefit the country and Filipinos.

Furthermore, he said the Bulacan economic zone, if approved, could 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 will 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 $200 billion in annual exports – a big boost to our GDP,” Ang said.    – Cecille Suerte Felipe

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 future investors.

He said these benefits include hundreds of thousands of new jobs, which will benefit primarily the next and future generations of young Filipino graduates, professionals, and skilled workers.

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 Department of Finance under the previous administration.

He said large and progressive cities all over the world employ a multiple airport strategy, such as Tokyo and New York, among others.

In any case, 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.

RAMON ANG

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