Bongbong Marcos vetoes Bulacan airport ecozone bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. rejected a bill seeking to create a special economic zone adjacent to an airport that will be built north of Metro Manila.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said on Saturday that Marcos vetoed House Bill 7575, or the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Act.

In his veto message to the Senate, the President cited fiscal prudence, the bill’s supposed lack of coherence with laws, and the need for a thorough review to make sure its benefits outweigh the costs.

“While this administration recognizes the objective of the proposed measure to accelerate economic growth in its locality, I 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 said.

Marcos said the bill will “significantly narrow” the tax base with its incentives for eligible enterprises.

He noted that this would force the government to seek new sources of revenue through more taxes or borrowings.

He said the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act already provides tax incentives to registered businesses without the need to create new special economic zones.

Meanwhile, Marcos said the bill failed to provide audit provisions for the Commission on Audit, procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and a master plan for the specific metes and bounds of the economic zone.

He also said it grants powers to the economic zone authority which are not found in the charter of other economic zones, or which violate aeronautical laws.

"Furthermore, 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," the letter read. The ecozone is in neighboring Pampanga province.

Marcos said the National Economic and Development Authority and the Central Luzon Regional Development Council pointed out the need to carefully review the impact of the project.

The House of Representatives passed the bill in September 2020, while the Senate approved it in May this year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Miguel Zubiri said that while he respects the move of Marcos to exercise his veto power and the Department of Finance's position on the measure, he maintained the proposed bill adheres to the provisions of the CREATE Act.

"The CREATE law does not ban the establishment of new economic zones as long as it conforms with the new fiscal and non-fiscal incentives under the CREATE law and as long as it conforms with the strict regulatory powers of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board," Zubiri pointed out.

Zubiri is being eyed to be a Senate President under the Marcos administration.

The proposed ecozone is near the New Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan. The facility is seen to ease congestion in the main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

Proponents of the measure, including Marcos’ sister Senator Imee Marcos, said the special economic zone will help create more jobs and support economic recovery by attracting foreign investments.

"The Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone is envisioned to complement the construction of one of the largest airports in the region and to make it not just a transportation hub but a manufacturing hub as well, in the hope of bringing in much-needed investments and thousands of jobs for the people of Central Luzon," Zubiri added.