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Senate approves bill creating Bulacan Airport Eco-Zone on final reading

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill establishing the Bulacan Special Economic Zone and Freeport.

Senate Bill 2572 was approved with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstention.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III he voted in favor of the bill but "with reminders."

"Siguro, we should pay attention to the constitutional requirement that before Congress creates a GOCC [government-owned and -controlled corporation] there must be some sort of a test of economic viability of the GOCC we are creating and I think this is undoubtedly a GOCC which we have created. So let's comply. May time pa naman. There's still time to comply with the constitutional requirement," Pimentel said.

"Just a reminder because that lack of test of economic viability, I used as an argument in my petition questioning the Maharlika Investment Corporation which is a GOCC...Meron na ngang kasabihan na 'haste makes waste' and the best example...was the first version of this bill na na-veto po ng presidente," he went on.

He noted that the veto message of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on the previous version of the bill seeking to create the Bulacan Special Economic Zone "had many good points."

"I hope that we have really addressed all those concerns. Let not the saying be proven a second time, Mr. President...Let us devote the time before the finalization of this measure in the bicam productively. Make sure that the measure is compliant with the constitution," he said.

Prior to Pimentel's manifestation, Senator Grace Poe, sponsor of the measure, said the "vastly improved bill" adheres to constitutional provision on land conversion, which balances economic growth with environmental protection, and that warrants greater local government unit representation at its helm.

She thanked her fellow senators for voting for the approval of the bill, reiterating that this will "spur investment, create more jobs and will actually be a model, not just here in the Philippines, but all over Asia, that would hopefully increase our [gross domestic product]."

Earlier, Poe said that the economic potential of the proposed economic zone in Bulacan is at around PP130.939 billion.

The original version of the bill was among the first of the proposed legislation that was vetoed by Marcos.

In rejecting the measure, the President argued 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.”

He added that with the bill, the tax system would be rendered incapable of generating a yield sufficient to sustain the country’s social and economic infrastructure as the government would be forced to seek new sources of revenues through additional taxes or borrowings in the future, which could ultimately burden taxpayers.

Marcos also cited Republic Act 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act that already allows eligible enterprises outside economic zones to apply for and avail of fiscal incentives without the need for creating new special economic zones.

During the sponsorship of SB 2572, Poe said that all the incentives under the proposed measure creating the economic zone in Bulacan are compliant with the CREATE law.—RF, GMA Integrated News