Home » Customs & Trade, Ports/Terminals » Legislators give nod to stronger Bataan Freeport authority, expanded territory

The Senate and House of Representatives have approved a measure that will further strengthen the powers and functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB).

The bicameral conference committee agreed to adopt the Senate version of the bill, which was fine-tuned during the pre-bicameral stage to ensure the measure complies with new policies of the Department of Finance on fiscal incentives.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2133, or “An Act Further Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan”, seeks to clarify and expand the Freeport of Bataan (FAB) territory to open more investment portfolios and opportunities for the province.

At present, much of the over 1,600 hectares comprising the original proclaimed area of the FAB is mountainous and unfit for development. Of the 456 hectares considered developed, 355 are occupied, leaving only 101 hectares for further development.

Under the proposed amendment, the current FAB territory will include the rest of the Municipality of Mariveles outside it, and its municipal waters. The bill will also expand the FAB territory to include alienable and disposable public lands and the municipal waters of the expansion areas.

The bill will also allow AFAB to create a one-stop shop for locators by giving AFAB certain powers within the FAB territory and unburdening other government agencies. This one-stop shop approach is designed to improve ease of doing business and reduce bureaucratic burdens on investing and doing business within the FAB.

As a balance to the grant of additional powers to AFAB and as a good governance measure, the bill provides for the separation of the roles of the chairman and administrator of AFAB.

“The pre-bicam was a very critical activity because we incorporated a lot of the comments of the Department of Finance,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who co-headed the bicameral conference committee, said in a statement.

During the bicameral conference committee hearing, Gatchalian highlighted the potential of FAB as an investment destination and as a means to address poverty in the area.

From just 33 registered enterprises with P5 million in committed investments in 2010, the number of enterprises in the FAB has grown to 130 by 2018, with a total of P6.99 billion in committed investments, Gatchalian said.

FAB has also created 39,266 jobs for Bataan residents as of December 2018, a three-fold increase from 12,777 in 2010. The lawmaker said this increase in employment has helped to bring down poverty incidence among families in Bataan to 1.6% in 2015—one of the lowest in the country—from 5.9% in 2009, when AFAB was established.

Gatchalian said that once the measure is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the FAB is expected to create at least 66,476 jobs in Bataan, while the national government stands to earn an estimated P7.6 billion in revenues from FAB in a span of five years, starting in 2020.

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