27 August 2009

Gordon bill to expand Subic, Clark ecozones gains support

A proposal by Senator Richard Gordon to allow the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) to develop more economic zones in neighboring areas gained more adherents during committee deliberations on Wednesday.

Gordon, who heads the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, received assurances from concerned national government agencies, government corporations and local government units (LGUs) that they would support development thrusts in the Subic-Clark growth corridor as envisioned in Gordon’s bill.

The agencies included SBMA and CDC, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Department of Finance (DoF), and the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

Representatives from the provincial governments of Zambales and Bataan likewise attended the hearing and expressed support to the proposal.

According to Gordon, Senate Bill No. 143 seeks to maximize the vision of the Subic-Clark growth corridor to decongest Manila and open up more livelihood opportunities in areas between the Subic, Clark and Manila, as well as along the 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

Gordon also said that by creating more special economic zones near the two free ports, the government could optimize the use of the three airports in Subic, Clark and Manila, the two seaports in Subic and Manila, and the connecting highway and railway in Luzon.

Agreeing to Gordon’s proposal, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza suggested that funds for the acquisition of lands for conversion into economic zones be sourced out from the 5 percent gross revenue tax collected by SBMA and CDC from their business locators.

“The challenge would be in the consolidation of the adjoining lands, and to spur the development of the prospective ecozones we shall need adequate funding,” Arreza said, pointing out that most of the lands along the SCTEX are already titled, based on a recent survey conducted by the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council (SCADC).

Meanwhile, PNR chairman Mike Defensor commended Gordon for coming up with a proposal to hasten the development of the Subic-Clark growth corridor.

Defensor revealed that his agency will be starting the Northrail project next month to enhance the benefits of the SCTEx and encourage more trade and livelihood opportunities in the Central and Northern Luzon regions.

“We will support the development of more economic zones,” Defensor pledged.

He added that, in particular, the Northrail project will further boost existing means to transport commuters and products in the area.

In the same hearing, Gordon also brushed off concerns by representatives of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) that Gordon’s proposal would duplicate the PEZA law by creating another agency to oversee economic zones.

“This is not a territorial tug of war. What I want to see out of this bill is just development,” Gordon added.

Aside from getting their support, Gordon also asked the concerned agencies and LGUs represented in the hearing to form a technical working group to collate suggested measures for incorporation in the bill.

“We’ll put the bill on the floor in two weeks,” Gordon said.

Two other measures seeking to amend Republic Act No. 7227, otherwise known as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority Act of 1991, are under deliberation by Senate committees.

The bills, which both seek to expand revenue allocations from the sale, lease, joint ventures and other transactions involving military bases and reservations in the country, are authored respectively by senators Jinggoy Estrada and Rodolfo Biazon. (SBMA Corporate Communications)