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President okays expanded powers for Bataan freeport

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that seeks to boost the powers and functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB).

Republic Act (RA) 11453, or the “Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan Act,” was signed by the President on August 30, but was released to the media only on Tuesday.|

President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

Under RA 11453, the existing Bataan Economic Zone located in Mariveles, Bataan will be converted into a special economic zone and freeport and, along with other territories indicated in the law, shall be known as the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB).

“Within the framework and limitations of the Constitution and applicable provisions of the Local Government Code, the FAB shall be developed into and operated as decentralized self-reliant and self-sustaining industrial, commercial-trading, research and development, engineering, medical, education, information and communications technology,” the law said.

“The FAB shall continue to be provided by the national government and/or local government with transportation, telecommunications and other facilities needed to attract legitimate and productive investments, generate linkage with industries and employment opportunities for the people of the province of Bataan and its neighboring towns and cities,” it added.

The FAB, according to the law, will have priority and preferential access to national government and/or local transportation and telecommunications infrastructure and other facilities.

Access to the FAB will also be incorporated in the planning, construction and operation of such infrastructure or expansions, “[p]rovided, that the autonomy and self-reliance of the FAB shall not be a hindrance to assistance and/or partnerships with other units and instrumentalities of the government” and “ no assistance or partnership be construed as a waiver of [its].”

Under the law, foreign citizens and companies owned by non-Filipinos in whatever proportion may set up enterprises in the FAB by themselves or in joint venture with Filipinos in any sector of industry, international trade and commerce.

The FAB may require a minimum investment in freely convertible currencies from any enterprise seeking registration as a FAB enterprise, the law said.

It is also mandated to manage and operated as a separate customs territory, ensuring free flow or movement of goods and capital within, into and out of its territory.

The areas comprising the FAB may be expanded or reduced when necessary, according to the law.

“Goods manufactured by FAB enterprises shall be made available for immediate retail sale in the domestic market, subject to the payment of corresponding taxes on raw materials and other regulations that may be formulated by the FAB,” the law stated.

In order to protect the domestic industries, the law said a negative list of industries would be drawn up and regularly updated by the AFAB, and those in the list will not be allowed “to sell their products locally notwithstanding the registration of such enterprises in the FAB.”

“The defense of the FAB and the security of its perimeter fence shall be the responsibility of the national government in coordination with the AFAB and the LGUs (local government units). The AFAB shall provide its own internal security and firefighting forces,” the law added.

Under RA 11453, AFAB itself will also be exempted from payment of all national and local taxes.

Meanwhile, any foreigner who invest an amount of $75,000.00, either in cash an/or equipment, in a registered enterprise will be entitled to an investor’s visa and to reside in the Philippines while his investment subsists.

The AFAB, under the law, is mandated to operate, administer, manage and develop, and coordinate with the local government units, as well as the Metro Bataan Development Authority, for the development plans, activities and operations of the FAB.

RA 11453 will take effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

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