Marcos veto on Bulacan Airport Economic Zone 'meant to cure defects' in proposed law — Angeles

Published July 3, 2022, 5:55 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang clarified that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. fully supports the creation of the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport, and his decision to veto the proposed measure was to cure the defects found in it.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles (PCOO Photo)

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles made the clarification after Marcos vetoed House Bill (HB) No. 7575, which proposed to create a special economic zone.

San Miguel Corporation, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, is investing P740 billion to turn a 2,500-hectare property in Bulacan into an aerotropolis featuring a world-class gateway capable of handling 100 million passengers annually, plus an adjacent urban and industrial hub.

In a statement, Angeles said the veto was the “fastest way” to cure the bill’s defects before it lapsed into law on July 4.

“Presidential Veto is [the] fastest way to cure the defects of HB 7575, especially the provision which exempts the Commission on Audit (COA) to look into the financial transactions on the special economic zone and freeport,” Angeles said.

In his veto message, Marcos said, “fiscal prudence must be exercised particularly at times when resources are scarce, and needs are abundant.”

“l 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,” he wrote.

He added that since 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 revenue through additional taxes or borrowings in the future.

“In the end, it is the taxpayers who will ultimately bear the brunt of the burden,” President Marcos said.

In her statement, Angeles reiterated that the proposed measure lacks coherence with existing laws, rules and regulations by failing to provide audit provisions for the COA, procedures for the expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and a master plan for the specific metes and bounds of the economic zone.

She said all financial transactions in government are audited by COA, which former Solicitor General Jose Calida now leads, and the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport is no exception.

“Without those necessary amendments indicated in the veto explanation, the law may be vulnerable to constitutional challenge,” Angeles said.

“The delegation of rule-making power on environmental laws, which is unique to the special economic zone, is of particular concern,” she added.

According to Angeles, Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, on July 1, immediately sent President Marcos’s veto message to the Senate President and the House Speaker.

Meanwhile, Angeles said the construction of the international airport in Bulacan is not affected by the veto and will push through as the San Miguel franchise to operate the airport was approved by both the Senate and House on October 11, 2020.

“The presidential veto was meant to include the necessary corrections and include the missing processes that might render HB 7575 entirely unconstitutional,” she explained.

Angeles maintained the bill did not provide procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries and granted “blanket powers” to the economic zone authority to handle technical airport operations, which would violate aeronautical laws.

She also pointed out that the proposed ecozone would be located near the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga province that borders Bulacan, which runs against government policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations.