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San Miguel to work with gov't to improve Bulacan ecozone proposal

San Miguel Corp. (SMC) on Monday said it is open to working with the government on the proposed economic zone in Bulacan, which was vetoed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

According to SMC President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon Ang, the government could raise up to $200 billion in annual revenues from potential foreign investors in aviation, manufacturing, technology, education, healthcare, and tourism.

Ang also said any supposed losses due to the grant of incentives of potential investors would be outweighed by the long-term benefits, citing what he said would be trillions of pesos in tax revenues for the entire lifetime of the ecozone and airport.

“We respect and abide by the government’s decision. We thank him for recognizing where the proposed Freeport bill can be further improved, and we look forward to working with his administration towards perfecting this,” he said in an emailed statement.

Marcos, on his first day in office, vetoed a measure which would have established a special economic and freeport zone in Bulacan Airport City.

The planned Bulacan Airport Ecozone would have been located adjacent to the SMC’s P740-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan, which seeks to decongest the main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Should it have been enacted to law, enterprises operating in the Bulacan Airport City would have been entitled to tax incentives.

The ecozone was sponsored by Senator Imee Marcos, the president's sister, as chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

The House of Representatives approved the economic zone under House Bill 7575 in September 2020, while the Senate approved its counterpart measure in May this year.

President Marcos Jr., however, argued that the proposal would narrow the tax base with its mandated incentives applicable to registered enterprises, and would make the tax system incapable of raising sufficient yields to sustain social and economic infrastructure.

In his statement on Monday, SMC’s Ang said that any tax incentives given to investors in the proposed ecozone would still have to pass the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB).

“Among our plans for the ecozone is to help create science and technology export hubs with the cheapest logistics cost, because these will be close to the airport and seaport,” he said.

“We are looking to attract world-class semiconductor manufacturers, battery power storage system manufacturers, electric vehicle makers, and even modular nuclear power assemblies and other new and emerging tech industries,” Ang added.

For her part, Senator Marcos acknowledged the prerogative of her brother, but noted that she is “deeply disappointed,” adding she is hoping it would “not have a chilling effect on the potential local and foreign investors.” —Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/KBK, GMA News