SANTA ANA, Cagayan: The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has remitted more than P1.427 billion to government coffers since it started earning in 2005.
Jose Marie Ponce, the outgoing CEZA administrator and chief executive officer, said P816.185 million in corporate income tax went to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and P611.671 million in dividends went to the national treasury.
Ponce will soon be replaced by Raul Lambino, former lawyer and spokesman of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now a representative of Pampanga.
Malacañang announced the new appointment on July 13. President Rodrigo Duterte signed Lambino’s appointment on July 5.
A former military man and an ally of the President, Lambino is expected to formally assume his new post at CEZA during turnover rites on July 21.
Based on the latest dividends of P241 million remitted to the national coffers last April, covering 2016, CEZA was the 11th out of the 20 government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) that have remitted so far this year, according to the Government Commission on GOCCs. There are currently 212 active GOCCs.
“Our remittance to the National Treasury marks another milestone for CEZA because it reveals success in our journey despite the trials that have come along the way. We are not just surviving but earning and, for that, contributing significantly to the national coffers,” Ponce said.
For over a decade now, CEZA has steadily positioned itself as a financially independent, income-generating government entity, he said.
CEZA is required to remit at least 50 percent of its annual net earnings as cash, stock or property dividends to the national government based on the revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 7656 or the Dividends Law.
“CEZA has become a consistent remitter to the national coffer with over P816 million worth of total remittances in dividends,” Ponce said.
In addition, CEZA also pays the 30 percent corporate income tax to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. It has become one of the top taxpayers in its revenue district in the last few years. Its tax remittances have reached more than P611 million since 2005.
Ponce said that realizing the objective to develop Cagayan province was not an easy task as CEZA met a number of challenges along the way, particularly with the enactment of Republic Act 7922, or the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 which created the CEZA to manage and supervise the development of Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) covering Santa Ana in Cagayan province and the islands of Fuga, Barit and Mabbag in Aparri.
CEZA started out with limited facilities and insufficient government funds to jumpstart development in its early years. “In the beginning, it was hard to obtain investments. For this reason, CEZA could only obtain a maximum of four locators and two port users in a row in a span of almost a decade,” Ponce said.
With little economic activity and barely any cash inflow, CEZA was at risk of closing due to this moribund performance.
In 2014, the used vehicles imports and magnetite ore exports via Port Irene were stopped. Ponce noted that CEZA lost 80 percent of its income from port operations—its biggest sources of revenue.
“These were just among the challenges that tested CEZA’s strength and proven its resilience and the aftermaths of these challenges are now testimonies of the management’s commitment and competence, not only to subsist but to make a major turnaround,” he said.
However, the upbeat performance of the Cagayan Freeport in the past decade was evident in many ways.
From hardly any locator in 2004, CEZA now has 217 registered enterprises, three port users, and three accredited service providers.
“More locators mean in increase in investments, more employment opportunities, and higher revenues. Increase in revenues brings stability and self-sufficiency,” Ponce said.
The ecozone has not relied on government subsidy since 2009.
“This means that CEZA can very well provide for its personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlays for the procurement of property, plant and equipment,” Ponce said.
“It was a rollercoaster ride but the extreme transformation is a confirmation of CEZA’s effective leadership and good governance under Secretary Jose Mari Ponce’s watch,” said an employee who experienced what it was like from the beginning.