“The SMC president firmly believes that the long-term benefits to the country of the ecozone would far outweigh and outnumber any supposed ‘losses’ due to the grant of incentives to future investors.”
Government stands to reap upwards of US$200 billion in export revenues annually from potential foreign investors—from the aviation, manufacturing, technology, education, healthcare, and tourism industries—if the vision for the Bulacan Airport Economic Zone is realized, says SMC President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang.
The SMC CEO was reacting to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s veto on July 1, 2022 of House Bill 7575 “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport.”
In his letter to the Senate, Marcos cited “substantial fiscal risks to the country,” “infringement of or conflict” with the mandates of other government agencies, “lack of coherence with existing laws, rules and regulations,” and the proposed ecozone’s proximity to the state-owned Clark International Airport and freeport zone.
The Senate version of the bill was authored by no less than elder presidential sister Senator Imelda “Imee” Romualdez Marcos.
Unfazed, Ang has expressed optimism that the vision for the ecozone could still be eventually realized, given the many benefits it will bring to the country.
“It is the President’s prerogative to veto the bill and we respect and abide by his decision. We fully support President Marcos and the new administration. We are eager to contribute and continue working with government, and play an active role in helping our country reach its goals—as we have always faithfully and consistently done,” says Ang.
In seeking an ecozone status to areas near the New Manila International Airport, San Miguel wants to establish three things: one, a state-of-art Silicon Valley of the East to attract the best in technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; two, Asia’s most modern medical facility and health care and drugs research center; and three, a university city in partnership with the world’s Ivy League schools and institutions.
SMC is fully financing and building the P740 -billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project sprawled on 2,500 hectares of fishing and farm lands in Bulacan.
Ang has maintained a positive outlook about the veto decision.
“If all the issues raised in the President’s veto could be properly clarified, addressed, or resolved, it would be easy to see that the intention for the ecozone is for it to greatly benefit the country and Filipinos,” he explains.
Ang points out that the Bulacan economic zone if approved, could be managed by the Philippine government, and any tax incentives to be given to investors will still pass the Department of Finance’s Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) review and approval process, to ensure these are aligned with the CREATE Law.
The CREATE Law was enacted to provide relief to foreign and local corporations already doing business in the Philippines, in light of the pandemic.
Relates Ang: “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.
“We will 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. We estimate these industries alone will add some US$200 billion in annual exports—a big boost to our GDP.”
The SMC president firmly believes that the long-term benefits to the country of the ecozone would far outweigh and outnumber any supposed “losses” due to the grant of incentives to future investors.
He points out these benefits include hundreds of thousands of new jobs, which will benefit primarily the next and future generations of young Filipino graduates, professionals, and skilled workers.
The transfer of knowledge and technology from foreign investors and locators, as well as access to world-class education and healthcare opportunities and services—industries the ecozone also looks to attract—would also be invaluable.
These gains are on top of the trillions in tax revenues that will accrue to the government for the entire lifetime of the ecozone and airport, coming from the various industries and institutions that will set up facilities and operations there, to take advantage of the low cost of logistics, incentives, and our country’s primary asset: a high-quality workforce.
Ang explains: “Incentives are really a way for government to attract much-needed investments into our country, especially now that we are all pulling together to help our economy not just recover, but continuously grow in the post-pandemic era.
“This way, our future generations will have enough and better opportunities than we have.”
On NMIA’s being close to the Clark Airport, which issue is mentioned in the veto and was initially raised by the DoF under the previous administration, which says NMIA would “compete” with Clark International Airport, Ang recalls many modern metropolises have now two or three airports cheek by jowl to each other.
Ang says that apart from the considerable distance between the two airports—Clark is approximately some 100 kilometers from Metro Manila— large and progressive cities all over the world employ a multiple airport strategy, such as Tokyo and New York, among others.
From a long-term 20-30-year population and economic growth of Metro Manila and Luzon provinces two airports just 100 kms apart are not a bad idea.
The current gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), has limited expansion, if any, space.
NAIA has space for one runway operating at any given time, compared to NMIA’s four parallel runways. “The country would need several airports to efficiently serve Filipinos, tourists, and industries,” Ang asserts.
“What we don’t want is to repeat the mistakes of the past where we were not quick enough to develop new infrastructure, giving rise to overcapacity and congestion on our aging roads, ports, and other facilities, and even in our skies. Temporary fixes will not do anymore. We are building for the future, with a clear vision of a fully-developed and progressive, prosperous Philippines,” Ang says.
Ang adds: “Regardless of the outcome of any further government review or action on the ecozone, SMC remains fully committed to continuing on its path of growth through nation-building, and building the NMIA—seen as the solution to decades of air traffic and land congestion that have severely limited the country’s growth.”
Ang says: “We believe in, and fully subscribe to President Marcos’ message of unity. It’s something we have always tried to demonstrate in many ways, particularly in times of great difficulty for our nation.
“We will do everything we can to help President Bongbong Marcos and his administration succeed, because their success is our country’s success. We look forward to working with them and contributing to their efforts to build our country back even better.”