To encourage higher migration of businesses and skilled workers into the province of Bataan, enhance its international positioning and competitiveness, and push greater contributions to national development, Senator Win Gatchalian has sponsored legislation amending the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) Act of 2009.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, sponsored on Monday Senate Bill No. 2133, which aims to further strengthen the power and functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB). In gist, SBN 2133 seeks to clarify and expand the FAB territory in order to create opportunities for more investment portfolios to come to Bataan.
At present, the FAB territory is over 1,600 hectares, although much of this is not ripe for development due to its mountainous nature. There are only 355 hectares of occupied areas within the 456 hectares considered developed, leaving only 101 hectares for further development.
Under the proposed amendment, the current FAB territory will now include the rest of the Municipality of Mariveles outside the former Bataan Economic Zone and its municipal waters, and would expand it to include alienable and disposable public lands and municipal waters of the expansion areas.
“Hindi ho masyadong malawak yung area for development because these are mountainous and rolling areas. Of these remaining areas, only 3 major parcels of land are zoned to receive industrial-related investments and these are not even contiguous. This is the reason why expanding the FAB territory is sorely needed,” the senator said.
Furthermore, the bill would also allow AFAB to create the best model business center and one-stop shop for locators by giving AFAB certain powers within the FAB territory and unburdening other government agencies. This one-stop shop approach is designed to improve ease of doing business and lower bureaucratic burdens of investing and doing business within the FAB, according to the lawmaker.
To balance the grant of additional powers to AFAB and as a good governance measure, the proposed measure provides for the separation of the roles of the Chairman and the Administrator of AFAB.
In filing the measure, Gatchalian noted the potential of FAB as an investment destination and in addressing the poverty rate in the area. From having 33 registered enterprises with P5 million committed investments in 2010, Gatchalian said the number of enterprises grew to 130 with P6.99 billion worth of committed investments in 2018.
The FAB reportedly created 39,266 jobs for Bataan residents as of December 2018, which tripled from 12,777 jobs in 2010.
“This increase in employment was instrumental in helping bring down Bataan’s poverty incidence among families to 1.6% in 2015 – one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in the country – from 5.9% in 2009 when the AFAB was established,” Gatchalian said.
“This is just a snapshot of the potential of the AFAB…and we would like to replicate its success in other parts of Bataan,” he added.