Commentary: Clark Freeport to move the country forward
by Eloisa P. Galang
San Fernando, Pampanga (3 April) -- March 20, 2007 was a red-letter date for the whole of Luzon and for the country as well.
This was when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed bills declaring Clark, among other special economic zones, as Freeport zone.
The bills 2259 and 2260, both amendments to RA 7227 or the Bases Conversion and Development Act, declare 4,400 hectares of Clark as Freeport zone and grant tax incentives and amnesty to business enterprises here and the other economic zones namely Poro Point Management Corporation (PPMC) in La Union, John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in Baguio City and the Bataan Technological Park Incorporated (BTPI).
For a while, Clark Development Corporation (CDC) officials and thousands employed by various locators in the area had been operating under a cloud of uncertainty with an earlier Supreme Court decision excluding Clark locators from tax incentives enjoyed by Subic Freeport.
CDC officials led by its President and CEO Liberato "Levy" P. Laus and all other stakeholders lobbied in Congress for the eventual approval of these amendments and which President Arroyo had earlier certified as urgent. These efforts paid off, culminating in the historic signing of the bills by the President.
Laus, in his welcome remarks, said the signing of the bills "shall move us on even farther, unfold new hopes, usher in new dreams" for Clark, the people of Central Luzon and the whole country.
He added that we need only to have faith in our leaders which made this happen. He also acknowledged the Clark Investors and Locators Association (CILA), business groups and other associations and individuals who have shown their support and belief in Clark as a major hub of commerce and catalyst for growth in the region.
Narciso Abaya, President and CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), thanked the "President for her support, the legislators for responding to her calls for a speedy approval of the bills".
He also reported that "despite the uncertainty of the past months, BCDA and its subsidiaries were able to accomplish much" and that it will contribute even more to the attainment of the objectives of the President's 8 by 08 reform program (eight reforms attained by 2008).
As BCDA celebrates its 15th year, Abaya declared a "firmer resolve for it to fulfill its mandate with greater passion", alongside its implementing arms such as CDC and other Freeport zones.
The bills declare the 4,400 hectares of land under the administration of the CDC as Freeport, thus giving tax incentives to locators inside the area. The provision states that "the CFZ shall be operated and managed as a separate customs territory ensuring free flow or movement of goods and capital equipment within, into and exported out of Clark, as well as provide incentives such as tax and duty-free importation of raw materials and capital equipment".
Present during the signing were the principal authors of the bills - Sen. Ralph Recto, for the Senate and then Representative and now Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz for the House of Representatives. Other bill sponsors present were Rep. Herminio Teves. Edwin Wy, Rep. Francis "Blueboy" Nepomuceno, Rep. Willy Sy Alvarado.
The historic signing ceremony was done at the equally historic parade grounds of the Clark Freeport Zone and the President, along with the officials present, were apparently in an upbeat mood as this was another proof of their efforts paying off toward the government's development goals for a New and Modern Philippines.
Most happy with the turn of events were the more than 45,000 employees of the Zone who made the most of the festive mood during the program, all declaring their support and active involvement in the expanding role of Clark as center of growth and development not only in Luzon but in the whole country. (PIA-Pampanga) [top]