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Senate approves bill to strengthen Bataan freeport

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to boost the powers and functions of Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB).

The upper chamber of Congress approved Senate Bill No. 2133 or “An Act Further Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan.”

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Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the sponsor of the bill, said the measure seeks to maximize the potential of AFAB to improve investment opportunities in the Philippines.

“The FAB has contributed not only to Bataan’s economy but also to the entire country over the past few years,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

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“From 2010 to 2016, the FAB was able to contribute more than P74 billion to the Philippine economy, net of costs. In other words, the government has gained P6.45 for every peso it has spent or foregone on the FAB,” he added.

Under the measure, the FAB will include land territories in the Municipality of Mariveles, which used to be part of the Bataan Economic Zone, and other areas in Mariveles that are not included in the FAB Main Zone.

The Senator said the bill will permit AFAB “to create model business centers and a one-stop shop for locators by offering AFAB certain powers within the FAB territory.”

Gatchalian also noted that strengthening AFAB can address poverty in Bataan. He cited that the number of registered enterprises in FAB rose from 33 with P5 million investments in 2010 to 130 with P6.99 billion investments in 2018.

He said the FAB was also able to offer 39,266 jobs to Bataan citizens in 2018, up from 12,777 jobs in 2010.

The bill will be brought to the bicameral committee for further deliberations and returned to both Houses of Congress for ratification of the final version.

Once the bill is ratified, its final version will be sent for President Rodrigo Duterte for signature. (Editor: Eden Estopace)

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