Palace: Marcos scrapped 'defective' bill to protect Bulacan airport economic zone

Palace: Marcos scrapped 'defective' bill to protect Bulacan airport economic zone
September 2019 photo shows a patch of mangroves in the village of Taliptip in Bulacan province.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s is not opposed to a special economic zone around a planned airport in Bulacan, just to some "defects" in a bill for it that he vetoed this week, the Palace said Sunday.

Marcos vetoed House Bill 7575 because of what he said were fiscal risks and overlapping mandates among government agencies. The move was welcomed by some environmentalist groups, including Oceana Philippines, who have been opposing the construction of the New Manila International Airport because of projected effects on fishing in the area and the threats of flooding in coastal towns in Bulacan.

SPECIAL REPORT: Fed by the waters

In a statement, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Marcos Jr. "fully supports" the creation of the proposed ecozone but had to veto the bill as fastest way to cure the defects of HB 7575." Among the defects she cited were a provision exempting the special economic zone and freeport from Commission on Audit scrutiny.

"Without those necessary amendments indicated in the veto explanation, the law may be vulnerable to constitutional challenge. The delegation of rule-making power on environmental laws which is unique to the special economic zone is of particular concern," Angeles, a lawyer by training, said.

READ: Marcos Jr. vetoes bill creating SMC's Bulacan Airport City economic zone, freeport

Marcos only vetoed the creation of the special economic zone, but the franchise for the project lapsed into law in January and remains in place. "The construction of the Bulacan international airport and aero city is not affected by the veto," Cruz-Angeles said.

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources granted developer San Miguel Aerocity Inc. an Environmental Compliance Certificate for the airport project in June 2021 despite protests from environmental groups and experts who had warned of the harm the project posed to Manila Bay's ecosystem and communities.

Communities in areas covered by the airport project — including Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town — have been relocated and some have received financial assistance from project proponent San Miguel Corp.

READ: Taliptip: A long goodbye where the sea will soon meet the sky

Some of the relocated residents have said that it has become harder for them to earn a living fishing after they left their original villages because fishing grounds are farther away and there is little to catch in nearby waters.

San Miguel Corp. is investing around P740 billion to develop a 2,500-hectare aerotropolis in Bulacan with an expected capacity of 100 million passengers a year, the Palace said. The ecozone will include urban and industrial developments around the airport. — Jonathan de Santos

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