Bulacan Airport City ecozone bill sees swift passage in House panel

Published September 2, 2020, 12:18 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The measure seeking to establish the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport continues to breeze through committees in the House of Representatives.

MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

The House Ways and Means Committee chaired by Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda approved the unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill (HB) No.7483 during a virtual hearing Wednesday, roughly 24 hours after it hurdled the Economic Affairs panel.

Filed by Bulacan 1st district Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado only last August 25, the bill proposes the creation of the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Zone adjacent to the proposed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan which San Miguel Aerocity Inc. will operate.

The construction of the P735-billion domestic and international airport will be carried out by top conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) at zero cost to the government. The airport’s franchise application bill, HB No. 7241, gained the Salceda panel’s nod last week, after it was approved by the Legislative Franchises Committee.

Economic Affairs panel chairperson, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon Garin defended the substitute bill before the Ways and Means Committee, which approves tax provisions of any given bill.

After an hour of discussion, the Committee approved the language in Section 5, 15, and 16 of the ecozone measure without amendments.

Section 15 (Fiscal Incentives) in particular reads, “Registered enterprises operating within the Bulacan Ecozone may be entitled to the existing pertinent fiscal incentives granted under Executive Order No.226, as amended, otherwise known as the Omnibus Investments Code of 1987, and to such other fiscal incentives as may be provided by law.”

During the hearing, Salceda recalled that the airport franchise bill and ecozone bill were supposed to be just one big-ticket measure. But he pitched to have it split “so that it’s very clear what kind of animal this is and what it will do to the Philippine economy.”

“I asked the House leadership to separate the franchise bill and to remove any reference to the Gross Income Earned regime, which I am firmly opposed to. I also asked that the boundaries of the ecozone be made more definite, and that incentives for eligible enterprises be those incentives that are already in our standard tax incentives menu, under EO 226,” he said.

“The House leadership accepted all my recommendations both in the ecozone bill and in the airport bill. So, I am confident that this is now a fairer bill than what was originally proposed,” he added.

Once the bill is enacted, the Bulacan Ecozone will cover the domestic and international airport, the Airport City to be developed adjacent to the airport, and lands adjacent to the Airport City as may be determined after.

The bill also creates the “Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority” or BACSEZFA, which shall manage and operate the Bulacan Ecozone.

Salceda also insisted that tax incentives given to the ecozone be subject to the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA).

“It’s still performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent. I wanted to make sure of that as the main advocate of tax incentives reform. At the same time, I want the investments that will come out of this bill to be realized. The airport will be the largest single-item investment in the country’s history,” said the Bicol lawmaker.

“So, with my revisions to the original draft now in place, we saw that approving this bill was justified. I thank the House leadership for their confidence in me and my recommendations,” he added.

Garin described the ecozone bill as “highly parochial” in nature and thus the author was given “due respect and consideration” when it was tackled Tuesday by her own panel.

“We had to consider na gusto talaga ng congressman. It is something that they have seen that could help their own district. With this application, they are anticipating the construction of the airport and they will gain from that,” she said.

 
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