Saturday, June 3, 2023

House To Introduce Safeguards In Bill On Bulacan Airport Ecozone


House To Introduce Safeguards In Bill On Bulacan Airport Ecozone

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A lawmaker on Monday assured President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the House of Representatives will introduce safeguards to address the fiscal and economic concerns regarding the measure creating the Bulacan airport ecozone.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda stressed the need to provide “conventional checks and balances” as he committed to file a version of the bill that considers the President’s reasons for vetoing it.

“We need to put some limits and checks and balances to it,” Salceda said in a media interview.

He said the House will require a cost-and-benefit analysis of the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (BACSEZFA).

“So, as early as now, I am telling potential investors and other proponents to give us a sense of their plans so that we can already weigh the costs versus the benefits. What I can assure the President and the public is that we will make sure that the concerns in the veto message are addressed,” he said.

On fiscal incentives, Salceda suggested that the bill should explicitly state that the ecozone will be fully subject to the rules, procedures, including approvals, and regulations under Title XIII of the Tax Code (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act).

He also proposed explicitly stating that the power of the ecozone authority to grant incentives shall be a delegated power from the Fiscal Incentives Review Board, which would address Marcos’ concern about the “lack of coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations.”

He said the version that he would refile will remove the “extraordinary powers” from the authority’s control.

Salceda said the initial metes and bounds of the proposed economic zone should be explicitly included in the text of the revised bill.

There should be an additional provision allowing the President, upon recommendation of the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority, to extend the metes and bounds of the ecozone, he noted.

“We also propose imposing a condition in Congress that a comprehensive master plan and feasibility study be presented to the Regional Development Council III and to the Economic Development Cluster of Cabinet before the Committee on Economic Affairs conducts a public hearing on the new bill,” he said.

Salceda assured the public that the veto “does not affect the construction of the new airport itself.”

“RA 11506, the franchise of the airport, is unaffected by the veto of the ecozone bill. So the airport will definitely push through still,” he said.

The Palace announced Saturday that HB 7575 was vetoed by Marcos due to “substantial fiscal risks”.

“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 its locality, I cannot support the bill,” Marcos said in a letter dated July 1 and addressed to the Senate President and House Speaker.

Marcos said the bill “lacks coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations”, noting that it has no provisions for an audit by the Commission on Audit, procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and a master plan for the specific boundaries of the economic zone.

He added that the proposed measure grants the proposed economic zone authority “rule-making powers relative to environmental protection that is not found in the charter of other economic zones,” as well as “blanket powers to handle technical airport operations in contravention of existing aeronautical laws”.

He noted that 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”.

HB 7575 authorizes BACSEZFA to establish, build, operate, and maintain public utilities and other services and infrastructure in the Bulacan Ecozone, which will be set up on reclaimed land in the coastal area of Bulakan, an industrial and fishing town 35 kilometers north of Manila. (PNA)

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