Senator Richard J. Gordon has underscored the importance of active economic zones in helping the Philippine economy reclaim its growth to pre-pandemic levels.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate government corporations and public enterprises committee, told officials of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) that incentives for investors would do wonders for the country's foreign direct investments.
“At this point in our country's history, with the prevailing oil price increases, with the pandemic still staring deep into our eyes and our hearts, with more reason more incentives,” Gordon said during PEZA's 27th anniversary on Thursday (March 17) where he was recognized as a recipient of the Gawad Pilipinas Partnership Excellence Award.
“We also need additional PEZAs to create employment and create the necessary tax base so that we could actually face up to our obligations,” he added.
The lawmaker was referring to the country’s P12- trillion outstanding debt.
Gordon said the country remains mired in an economic conundrum, with the number of poor Filipinos dipping even further to 26.14 million in 2021, from 22.3 million in 2018.
Almost all micro, small, and medium enterprise businesses also went bankrupt at 99.9% of all MSMEs stopped operations as of 2021, according to data collated by Gordon’s office.
Employment remains a hot-button topic, with the country amassing 3.2 million unemployed workers, exacerbated by 6.8 million underemployed ones.
Gordon maintained his good standing with PEZA, and suggested ways to ensure unimpeded economic activity across all 415 economic zones and 4,670 locators.
“Through the RT-PCR testing facilities of the Philippine Red Cross, work in partnership with the PEZA in ensuring a safe, COVID-free environment in our ecozones to avoid workplace disruptions among our locators,” the PRC chairman and CEO said.
“If I get back to the Senate, I will try again to secure the passage of the Regional Investment and Infrastructure Coordinating (RICH) Hub to be followed by similar RICH bills in Panay Island, Negros, and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao,” he continued.
Senate Bill (SB) 1549 aims to optimize the use of available infrastructure such as airports, seaports, and highways to open a one-stop shop for agriculture, commerce, transportation, and education in idle land.
Inspired by a visit to the Hong Kong Freeport during his early public service days, Gordon pushed for the passage of the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, leading to the establishment of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
Rising from the ashes caused by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the SBMA, under Gordon’s leadership, became a premier investment hub in the 1990s, creating 250,000 jobs from conglomerates such as FedEx, Coastal Petroleum, ACER, among others.
In the Senate, Gordon also pushed for the passage of Republic Act (RA) 9400, which resolves the constitutionality issue on the grant of tax incentives to the ecozones.
He was also author and sponsor of the Tourism Act of 2009, which opened the door for livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.
The province of Bataan also recognized Gordon for authoring RA 9728, which established the Freeport Area of Bataan, and the ensuing RA 11453, which strengthened its powers.