MANILA – A measure seeking the creation of the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport has been refiled at the House of Representatives.
House ways and means committee chairman Joey Salceda filed House Bill No. 2228, which proposes amendments that would remove provisions that pose fiscal risks to the country, as earlier contained in House Bill No. 7575 which was vetoed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. last month.
A copy of the bill was sent to House media on Wednesday.
The new measure, Salceda said, explicitly states that the ecozone shall 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 or CREATE Act).
Salceda 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 the President’s concern about the “lack of coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations.
In terms of addressing “infringement on or conflict with other agencies’ mandates and authorities", the bill states that the powers and functions of the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (BACSEZFA) take standard powers and functions granted to other Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), such as the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), which is similarly situated.
Salceda noted that the bill has a provision explicitly subjecting the ecozone authority to the Commission on Audit (COA), and other governance mechanisms under Republic Act No. 10149 or the Government-Owned or -Controlled Corporation (GOCC) Governance Act.
The bill limits the ecozone authority’s power to acquire private lands within or adjacent to the Bulacan ecozone either by purchase, negotiation or condemnation proceedings.
It would require the acquisition of agrarian reform land to be subjected to clearance from the Secretary of Agrarian Reform.
Salceda said the bill would impose 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.
In his two-page veto message dated July 1 and released the following day, Marcos said the bill "lacks coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations", noting that it has no provisions for an audit by the COA, procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and a master plan for the specific boundaries of the economic zone.
“Presidential veto is the fastest way to cure the defects of HB 7575, especially the provision which exempts the Commission on Audit to look into the financial transactions on the special economic zone and freeport. Had the President not vetoed the HB 7575, it would have lapsed into law on July 4 or 30 days after the bill was sent by the legislature to Malacañang,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
BACSEZFA was described by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) as a “major boost to both national and local economies” as it will complement the PHP740-billion airport project.
Under its conceptual master plan, the NMIA will feature four parallel runways, world-class terminal, and a modern and interlinked infrastructure network that includes expressways and railways.
SMC president and chief executive officer Ramon S. Ang earlier said the airport's construction and operations will bring inclusive growth to the province post-pandemic.
The project was proposed by SMC as a build-operate-transfer scheme under a 50-year concession. (PNA)