SANTA ANA, Cagayan: The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority’s (CEZA) new administration on Wednesday said it has identified seaports, airports and railways as the development priority projects to make the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) a modern economic center in Northern Luzon.
Raul Lambino, who took over the CEZA leadership on Monday as the new administrator and chief executive officer, announced that Port Irene in Barangay (village) Casambalangan will be repaired.
Lambino said dredging of its heavily silted seabed and the construction of additional wharves to expand its capacity is on top of his wish list as well as the modernization of the North Cagayan International Airport in Lal-lo town.
“These two are extremely important to spur development of the [Cagayan] ecozone,” Lambino said.
He added that a multi-billion development will include a railway alignment from Tuguegarao City to the towns of Lal-lo and Santa Ana for both commuter and cargo services linking up with the rest of Luzon
“We envision the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport as a vibrant growth center that is efficient, clean and free of corruption,” said Lambino, the fifth administrator of the Cagayan ecozone established on the basis of Republic Act 7922.
He said he will tap domestic investors while wooing foreign capitalists from Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia for light industry manufacturing and tourism in the Cagayan Freeport.
“I wish to add more local and foreign investors to participate in the development process with due consideration to the existing partners that we have,” Lambino said during the turnover ceremony on July 24 in Pasig City.
Lambino succeeded former Sec. Jose Mari Ponce who was at the helm of the government-owned and -controlled corporation for 12 years.
The new chief is a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte and has served as the spokesman and lawyer of former president, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Ponce, in his farewell speech during the turnover, thanked the men and women of the organization for their support and sacrifices that contributed to the overall success of CEZA.
In 2005, Ponce took over CEZA when the company was reportedly on the verge of dying and managed to stimulate the company’s growth during his 12-year administration.
“The corporation was in moribund state, with negative income, heavy government subsidy and dilapidated infrastructure, if any. We were able to transform this once losing entity that was ready to close into a performing, well-regarded government entity in Region 2 and a highly attractive investment area,” Ponce said.
Today, Ponce said CEZA generates hundreds of millions in revenues and has been able to remit over P1.42 billion worth of government revenue through tax remittance, dividends share, and other direct and indirect government transactions.
The remittances include P816.185 million in corporate income tax collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and P611.671 million in dividends that went to the National Treasury.
CEZA has 217 registered locators, three port users and three accredited service providers as of June 30 this year.
Among the greatest accomplishments for CEZA during Ponce’s stint include freeing CEZA from government subsidy, giving a steady growth of capital investments, employment and promoting local economic activities in the area.
The CNIA which is envisioned as an aerotropolis is considered one of the significant infrastructure facilities that have been established by CEZA under Ponce’s administration.
“Aviation services like a park and hangar hub, aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), flying schools and other support system for aviation needs, airport crew and tourism can be offered in the area,” Ponce said.
“Secretary Ponce has done a good job with CEZA and I hope to continue the positive developments he started and do more,” Lambino said.
“I am positive that we can live up to the primary mandate of CEZA and make it the heart of economic activities in Northern Luzon, particularly Regions 1, 2 and the Cordilleras,” he said.
“We intend to expand the current CEZA 2017-2022 Medium Term Development Plan by infusing bigger infrastructure projects and investments in different areas through an extensive investment and marketing campaign.” Lambino added.
He said the expansion is in line with President Duterte’s 10-Point Socio-Economic Agenda that highlights the acceleration of infrastructure and the development of industries that will yield robust growth across the archipelago, create jobs and uplift the lives of Filipinos.