House OKs bill creating special economic zone beside planned Bulacan airport

The House of Representatives approved on final reading a bill creating the Bulacan Airport City Economic Zone and Freeport, set to be built beside the planned domestic and international airport in Bulakan town in Bulacan province.

On Tuesday, September 15, House Bill (HB) No. 7575 hurdled the lower chamber after getting 205 yes votes versus 6 no votes and only one abstention.

Only the lawmakers from the progressive Makabayan bloc voted against the measure. They are Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.

Under HB No. 7575, the Bulacan special economic zone would include the area covering the proposed New Manila International Airport, the Airport City to be constructed beside the airport, and other lands adjacent to Airport City as may be determined later.

The bill would also create the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority to manage the operations within the economic zone. 

Section 15 of the bill would also grant fiscal incentives to registered enterprises operating within the Bulacan economic zone. 

Bulacan 1st District Representative Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, the bill's principal author, earlier said the special economic zone would provide alternative areas for investment outside Metro Manila. 

"It has the potential to boost economic activity in the area, provide more job opportunities to Bulakeños and the surrounding provinces, and improve the economic condition in the province," said Sy-Alvarado when he sponsored the bill in the plenary on September 10.

But Gabriela congresswoman Brosas argued that the special economic zone would hurt Filipino laborers and displace Bulakeño farmers.

“Hindi batayang pambansang industriya ang sisibol sa loob ng economic zone na ito kundi mga negosyo at pabrika pa rin na nakasandig sa low value-added exports at costly imports,” Brosas said as she explained her no vote.

(The economic zone would not give rise to locally-based industries but to businesses and factories relying on value-added exports and costly imports.)

“At tulad ng iba pang special economic zones, magiging malaking sona ito ng walang humpay na pagsasamantala sa mga manggagawa at dislokasyon ng mga magbubukid sa Bulacan at karatig-probinsiya,” she added. 

(And just like other special economic zones, it would become a site that would cause the exploitation of workers and the displacement of Bulacan farmers and those from nearby provinces.)

HB No. 7575’s approval comes a little over a week after the House granted San Miguel Aerocity Incorporated a 50-year franchise to construct, operate, and maintain an airport in Bulakan town.

But advocates and environmentalists strongly oppose the airport project, warning it would displace families and be prone to geohazards. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

image