CITING, among other reasons, the possible “substantial fiscal risk” to the government by the proposed Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. vetoed House Bill (HB) No. 7575 creating the said zone.
In a two-page veto message he sent to the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives on Friday, Marcos said the creation of the zone is not a cost-effective project for the government.
He noted that no less than the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) and the Regional Development Council III called for more studies on the feasibility of the said economic zone.
“As the system would be rendered incapable of generating a yield sufficient to sustain the country’s social and economic infrastructure, the Government would be forced to seek new resources of revenue through additional taxes or borrowings in the future. In the end, it is the taxpayers who will ultimately bear the brunt of the burden,” Marcos said.
Best to revise, refile bill – Sotto
This, as the immediate past Senate President, Vicente Sotto III, confirmed receiving a copy of the President’s “veto order” late Friday, or, in his estimation, “one or two days” before the enrolled bill will lapse into law if no presidential action is taken.
Sotto’s term ended June 30, and the Senate, before its June 1 adjournment, had voted to designated Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri the chamber’s officer-in-charge. He is also expected to be voted the Senate President when the 19th Congress opens on July 25. He could not be reached at the weekend, and his staff said he was out of town, in a location where there was signal problem.
Sotto recalled, in a phone interview with BusinessMirror, that the aerocity special economic zone bill was passed by the 18th Senate in its last week before adjourning sine die on June 1, and the enrolled bill was sent to Malacanang “27 or 28 days ago,” which he said would make the bill lapse into law “by July 3.”
While a presidential veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, Sotto said, “in my opinion, [Congress] cannot override [this one].” For one, such vote is hard to muster, Sotto noted. More important, he stressed, the veto attempt will be hounded by legalities. “There is a technicality because the bill was approved by the 18th Congress, so the 19th Congress [which convenes on July 25] cannot override the veto.”
Sotto said, when asked for the next steps, suggested that the champions of the bill “re-file the bill in the 19th Congress and remove all the objectionable provisions that led to the veto.”
In his veto message, Marcos noted that the bill is no longer necessary since Republic Act (RA) 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) already provide tax incentives to qualified firms outside of economic zones.
The proposed legislation, he said, also “lacks coherence” with existing laws, rules, and regulations since lacked audit provisions for the Commission on Audit (COA), procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and a master plan for the metes and bounds of the economic zone.
It also granted authority of the proposed economic zone unpreceded authority relative to environmental protection as well as blanket powers to set technical airport operation outside of existing aeronautical laws.
Last, he also said the new economic zone will be in close proximity to the Clark Economic Zone, which is “which is against government policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations.”
“In view of these considerations. I am constrained to veto the above mentioned Enrolled Bill (HB 7575),” Marcos said.
The House of Representative passed its version of the legislation as early as 2020, while the Senate completed its own version of the bill on May 26, 2022.
The economize zone would have had as centerpiece the San Miguel Corporation’s 2,500-hectare international airport in Bulacan.