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Imee wants Marcos econ team to set policy on ecozone creation after veto

Senator Imee Marcos on Monday urged the economic team of her brother, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., to clarify its policy on the creation of new economic zones in the country.

"So imbes na katulad nga ng sinabi niyong mag-aksaya ng panahon, magkaliwanagan na lang tayo. Ano ba talaga ang direksyon? No new ecozones or pwede ang ecozones? Yes or no na lang. Di ba? Simple lang," Imee said in an interview with reporters.

The lawmaker made the remark as she warned of "wrong signals" being sent to foreign and local investors after the newly installed president vetoed the bill seeking to create a special economic and freeport zone in Bulacan Airport City.

Marcos suggested that the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) convene and finalize the government's direction on the matter.

Marcos added that these coordination meetings are "best done officially because it's a matter of policy."

"So we need the economic team, what the direction will be regarding the new ecozones so that we are guided and thereafter, future potential investors can also make up their minds whether we are worthwhile investing in," she explained.

"Alam niyo ang economic team ang dapat mauna. I don't want to jump the gun on anyone. The proper process is through LEDAC," she went on.

The lawmaker, who sponsored the bill in the 18th Congress, expressed dismay over the rejection of the measure which she said could give the government around $204 billion in annual export income.

"So nanghihinayang ako at sabihin ko na yung totoo, kinakabahan din ako na maling signos ito para sa ating mga investor whether local or foreign kasi para sa akin kung sinuman ang mag-iinvest na negosyante ngayon, bongga talaga, tulungan na natin please at kailangan at kailangan natin ng hanapbuhay," Marcos said.

"I pray that there is no chilling effect. Ang akin ay talagang alam ng kapatid ko ito magaling ang aking ading, magaling si Bongbong ang kinatatakutan ko e baka hindi na-aral nang maigi or merong naggagaling-galingan," she added.

Asked if her brother was not advised well on the bill, Imee said: "Hindi ko alam at hindi rin ako papayag na pinagsasabong kami so hindi ko talaga alam, pero nagulat ako kasi akala ko tapos na e."

Marcos said she, along with Senator Joel Villanueva and incoming Batangas Representative Ralph Recto, will further study the measure, as she questioned her brother's statement over the veto, specifically on the provision on the mandate of the Commission on Audit and the tax breaks.

"Nagtataka ako kung ano kaya yung mga amendment na yon. Siyempre wala namang nagsasabi na perfect yung bill, wala namang batas na perfect pero ang pinagtatakhan ko yung mga binabanggit na kailangan palitan, katulad ng exemption from COA. There is no such exemption," she said.

According to the 18th Congress Senate economic affairs chairperson, the bill might be refiled in the 19th Congress or an application for the special economic zone at Bulacan Airport City may be submitted with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

In the same interview, Imee reiterated that these were the remnants of former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III's job.

"Kasi kung tutuusin talagang policy ito, leftover business of Secretary Dominguez who has objected to every single new ecozone since 2016. So perhaps those papers were inherited by  the new administration and they were not able to go through them as carefully as they would like," she said.

On Saturday, the president vetoed House Bill 7575, arguing that the proposal “significantly narrows our tax base with its mandated incentives applicable to registered enterprises,” which is “contrary to the government’s objective of developing  a tax system with low rates and broad tax base.”

In a previous statement, Senator Marcos said she recognized and upheld the President's prerogative to veto any bill, but that she was deeply "disappointed the Bulacan ecozone has been cancelled."

Malacañang earlier on Monday said the law had to be "sharpened."

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) also said it is open to working with the government on improving the proposal. — BM, GMA News