AN economist-lawmaker on Monday assured President “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the House of Representatives will require a cost-and-benefit analysis of the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority.
House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda said the lower chamber will introduce safeguards to address the President’s fiscal and economic concerns on the measure, which President Marcos vetoed on July 1.
“The House will require a cost-and-benefit analysis. So, as early as now, I am telling potential investors and other proponents to give us a sense of their plans so that we can already weigh the costs versus the benefits. What I can assure the President and the public is that we will make sure that the concerns in the veto message are addressed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Salceda assured the public that the veto does not affect the construction of the new airport itself.
“RA 11506, the franchise of the airport, is unaffected by the veto of the ecozone bill. So the airport will definitely push through still,” he added.
Salceda has also committed to file a version of the bill that considers the President’s reasons for vetoing the bill.
“While I was not one of the original proponents of the vetoed bill, I hope to help move this bill forward by filing a corrected version. The President’s concerns are valid, so we have to take heed,” he said.
On fiscal incentives, Salceda said the House will propose that the bill explicitly state that the ecozone shall be fully subject to the rules, procedures, including approvals, and regulations under Title XIII of the Tax Code (CREATE Act).
“We also propose explicitly stating that the power of the ecozone authority to grant incentives shall be a delegated power from the Fiscal Incentives Review Board. This would address the President’s concern about the lack of coherence with existing laws, rules, and regulations,” he said.
Salceda stressed he is proposing a version that removes “extraordinary powers” from the authority’s control.
“[I am proposing] explicitly subjecting the ecozone authority to the Commission on Audit, and other governance mechanisms under Republic Act No. 10149 or the GOCC Governance Act, particularly Sections 24, 25, and 26, on audit mechanisms; and to subsequent rules and regulations issued by the Governance Commission for GOCCs,” he added.
Salceda also proposed limiting “the ecozone authority’s “power to acquire either by purchase, negotiation or condemnation proceedings, any private land within or adjacent to the Bulacan Ecozone” with certain conditions.
These conditions include subjecting agrarian reform land acquisition to clearance from the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, after a process similar to the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent process. Salceda also wants to include a provision stating that the exercise of powers to acquire land from agrarian reform beneficiaries shall be subject to Presidential approval through a proclamation.
On President Marcos’s concerns about metes and bounds, Salceda proposed that “that the initial metes and bounds of the proposed economic zone be explicitly included in the text of the revised bill”
Salceda also proposed “an additional provision allowing the President, upon recommendation of the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority, to extend the metes and bounds of the ecozone.”
We also propose imposing a condition in Congress that a comprehensive master plan and feasibility study be presented to the Regional Development Council III and to the Economic Development Cluster of Cabinet, before the Committee on Economic Affairs (presumably the principal committee of the bill) conducts a public hearing on the new bill,” Salceda added.