Bulacan Special Economic Zone: A well-planned and spacious Silicon Valley needed | Inquirer Opinion
LETTERS

Bulacan Special Economic Zone: A well-planned and spacious Silicon Valley needed

/ 05:08 AM September 30, 2022

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and his group have filed a revised version of House Bill No. 7575 that proposes to create the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Bulakan, Bulacan. In his explanation to the media, Salceda cited 14 changes that, he said, go beyond the concerns cited by President Marcos Jr., including the need for fiscal prudence and for public interest to trump business gains.

The President’s veto appears to have been influenced by a strong lobby in defense of the Clark Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Pampanga. Their main argument is that the Bulacan SEZ is so close to the Clark SEZ that it could cause the diversion of locators from the latter.

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Supporters favoring the Bulacan SEZ, meanwhile, cite that it offers the same incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act as those offered by the Clark SEZ. Another argument is that while the Clark SEZ is also located at comparable distances from the Subic and Bataan freeport zones, these two freeports are not poaching locators from Clark. Furthermore, these freeports are not complaining about competition from the Bulacan SEZ despite their proximity just across Manila Bay.

Some analysts are skeptical about the President’s veto, and caution that Mr. Marcos should be more circumspect in applying his veto power, and should observe his promise of promoting unity during his administration lest he sends a negative signal to investors. The President should not dampen the enthusiasm of visionary business leadership such as that seen in San Miguel Corp., which has shown genuine desire to help speed up the country’s development. Aside from shelling out huge amounts for the dredging of the Pasig and the Tullahan-Tinajeros rivers, its Skyway System has greatly eased traffic congestion in Metro Manila and vastly improved connectivity in the hinterlands.

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Bulacan SEZ is seen as a well-planned equivalent of Silicon Valley with enough space for locators such as that seen in northern California. The project will actually carry out the National Economic and Development Authority’s “Dream Plan” for Mega Manila by making Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna urban expansion areas that will help decongest the metropolis.

The country is already late in the game, with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Board of Investments planning to develop Makati as the country’s Silicon Valley despite its already limited space. In contrast, the Bulacan SEZ has ample space for a more orderly location of emerging high-tech industries that will produce, for example, world-class semiconductors, battery power storage systems, electric vehicles, and modular nuclear power assemblies. These industries can benefit from the cheap logistics costs due to their proximity to the airport and seaport. The Bulacan SEZ is also surrounded by good schools in Malolos, Bocaue, and Meycauayan that can provide skilled and highly educated human resources to the SEZ, as well as absorb technology transfer from its expatriate specialists.

Our Asian neighbors have already developed their own Silicon Valleys, and we see this in the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan, Pangyo Techno Valley in South Korea, Eastern Economic Corridor in Thailand, and the three districts of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The Bulacan SEZ has to be developed now because aside from attracting locators from Europe and the United States, it will also be attractive to locators from nearby Taiwan and South Korea, which are currently experiencing external political threats.

Meliton B. Juanico,

licensed environmental planner; retired professor of geography,

University of the Philippines Diliman

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TAGS: Bulacan, Economic zones, Joey Salceda
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