Bulacan airport ecozone bill refiled in House with amendments

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Joey Salceda has refiled the measure seeking to create the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport which was vetoed by the President last month.

In House Bill No. 2228, Salceda proposed amendments to address issues raised by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., including fiscal sustainability concerns, overlapping of regulatory agencies’ functions, and the bill’s supposed lack of coherence with laws.

RELATED: Palace says vetoed Bulacan airport ecozone bill needs to be 'sharpened,' questions blanket powers

A copy of the refiled bill was shared to the media only on Wednesday, but it was filed on July 21, nearly three weeks after Marcos issued his veto message.

Among the fiscal risks cited by the President is that the proposed law will significantly narrow the tax base with its mandated incentives for eligible enterprises. Under the refiled measure, Salceda said tax incentives shall be granted to businesses “only to the extent of their approved registered project” under the Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP).

The SIPP lists the economic and business activities eligible for investment incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, also known as the CREATE Law.

Salceda also proposed that the national government enter into a cost-sharing scheme with the economic zone authority to cut the cost of securing the ecozone.

There were also changes to the bill to ensure the ecozone authority does not take away existing powers from other regulators and that there will be no conflicts of interest between its operating and its regulatory functions.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker specified that the initial metes and bounds of the ecozone will be the territorial jurisdiction of Bulakan town in Bulacan. He inserted a proviso that states a presidential proclamation is needed for subsequent expansions of this territorial coverage.

The amended bill also clarifies that the ecozone authority’s acquisition of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries shall be subject to clearance from the Secretary of Agrarian Reform after securing the consent of the concerned farmers.

“On ecological protection, we limited the Authority's role to implementing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources's rules and regulations, and removed its rulemaking powers, consistent with the President's veto message,” the measure further read.

Still in response to the veto message, the new bill provides that the ecozone authority shall not be exempt from evaluation by the Commission on Audit, as provided under relevant laws, rules, and regulations.

Salceda said he is confident the proposed safeguards “materially, if not completely,” address the issues which led to Marcos rejecting the bill.

“In fact, the proposed safeguards and amendments, go beyond the concerns cited in the veto message, to ensure that the ecozone, while created to encourage private investment, is pursued ultimately for the public interest,” he wrote in the explanatory note.

The proposed ecozone is near the New Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan. The government said the veto will not affect the construction of the airport, which is seen to help decongest the main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.