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House Panel Revives Bill Establishing Bulacan Airport Zone

House Panel Revives Bill Establishing Bulacan Airport Zone
Image from San Miguel Corp. shows an artist’s concept of the P740-billion New Manila International Airport.

Despite being vetoed by President Marcos last year, a bill seeking the establishment of a Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport (BACSEZFA) has been approved by the House committee on ways and means.

At a hearing on July 25, the panel approved House Bill No. 2228 reviving the proposed project. Panel chair Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the bill’s author, said that BACSEZFA will “transform Metro Clark and mega Manila into a single market – with all the benefits of scale and integration.” He maintained that BACSEZFA “is the missing link for this development.”

Salceda describes a “megalopolis” as a group of metropolitan areas linked by a “common system of transport, economy, resources, ecology and so on.”

In July 2022, the President vetoed a similar measure contained in HB 7575 citing its “substantial fiscal risks to the country” as well as its “infringement on or conflict with other agencies’ mandates and authority.”

In vetoing the measure, the President said, “fiscal prudence must be exercised particularly at a time when resources are scarce and needs are abundant.”

He also pointed out that the enrolled bill “lacks coherence with existing laws, and regulations as it did not have provisions for an audit by the Commission on Audit, a master plan for specific boundaries of the economic zone, and procedures for expropriation of lands awarded to agrarian reform.”

But Salceda argued during the hearing that his proposed measure “comprehensively addressed the concerns mentioned in (the President’s) veto message.”

He added that in establishing BACSEZFA, there will be “integral planning” to avoid the “mistakes of the Ninoy Aquino International Airports (NAIA).”

“Much of the areas surrounding NAIA is wasted economic potential, primarily occupied by exclusive subdivisions, causing traffic, bottleneck, while missing the opportunity to create a logistics ecosystem around the airport,” he said.

Salceda added that the project will not only create employment and provide fiscal incentives but will also address the problem of flooding, among others.

“Our international gateway will eventually have to be relocated whether you like it or yes. NAIA is overcrowded, has no direct connection to rail transit and suffers from traffic as the bottleneck of Metro Manila,” he maintained.