House OK’s bill excluding local gov’t interference in Bataan economic zone 

THE HOUSE of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a bill strengthening the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), giving it sole and exclusive management and operation of what has been designated as an economic zone specializing in space technology locators.  

During the plenary, 289 lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill No. 8001, while nobody voted no, but one congressman abstained.  

Under the measure, all economic and non-economic activities within the Freeport Area of Bataans (FAB) main zone and its expansion areas will be handled by the AFAB.  

The agency is also authorized to sell lands declared alienable or disposable under an approved development plan; undertake and approve reclamation and related projects as well as owning, holding, purchasing or leasing foreshore areas; and exercise sole and exclusive port regulatory and administrative authority.  

The AFAB is mandated to have its own internal police force, firefighters, and a Disaster Risk Reduction Management office to ensure public safety and security within its zone.  

The measure also grants foreign nationals’ eligibility for an investor visa if they 

put in $75,000 either in cash or equipment directly to AFAB or in a registered enterprise.   

The bill seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 11453, An Act Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the AFAB. This law amended RA No. 9728 or the Freeport Area of Bataan Act of 2009, wherein the former Bataan Economic Zone in Mariveles, Bataan under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority was transformed into the FAB.  

In 2022, the AFAB generated P11.3 billion in investments while its locators produced $835 million worth of exports, House Economic Affairs Committee Chairman and Negros Occidental Rep. Gerardo P. Valmayor, Jr. said during panel deliberations on the bill. Beatriz Marie D. Cruz