Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SBMA eyes P2-B fund for new economic zones

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has proposed the creation of a P2-billion fund to enable the development of new economic zones near the Subic Bay Freeport and the Clark Freeport.

The proposal was made by SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza during a meeting with the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, and representatives of the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

Gordon, who has filed Senate Bill 0143, or the “3-2-1 Luzon Global Corridor Act of 2009”, earlier proposed the creation of new special economic zones in Luzon to optimize the three airports, two seaports, and one connecting highway and railway in the major ports of Manila, Subic, and Clark.

The bill also seeks to strengthen the power of the SBMA and CDC, giving them the mandate to develop nearby areas into new economic zones.

To speed up the process, Arreza then proposed the creation of a fund to develop new zones.

“If we want Subic and Clark to reach the level of Singapore, we will need investments the equivalent of either seven Texas Instruments or four Hanjins a year. But to start all these, we need to build roads first,” Arreza said.

Arreza recalled that when SBMA and CDC were formed, the primary intention was to create jobs for those affected by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and the pullout of the U.S. military from Subic and Clark in 1992.

However, he pointed out that the business model that supports the growth of Subic and Clark “to a certain level, is very limited, as they rely primarily on leases or income from land, which is a finite resource.”

Arreza noted that to carry out their new mandate of developing nearby communities, Subic and Clark would require a tremendous amount of annual investments in the next 10 years to fund various public infrastructures, such as roads, water and sewerage systems, as well as technical schools that would help reduce skills mismatch.

He also stressed that an eco-metric study made by the SBMA showed that Vietnam and China invested anywhere between 7-8 percent of their annual gross domestic product in infrastructure to boost their edge as investment sites.

In contrast, the Philippines spends only 3 percent of its GDP for the same purpose, Arreza added.

Responding to Arreza’s proposal, Gordon said he would file a bill that would set aside part of the taxes collected by SBMA and CDC in the next 20 years to develop more eco-zones in their areas.

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