Cebu will not be an ecozone – for now

1/13/10 - THE business sector in Cebu is giving up on their biggest advocacy—turning the whole island into an economic zone—at least for this Congress.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Samuel Chioson said he has talked with some of the eight Cebuano congressmen who sponsored House Bill (HB) 1319 and decided there is not enough time for it to become a law this Congress.
“We will start again next Congress and make some modifications on the bill,” Chioson told the BusinessMirror.
First District of Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas told the BusinessMirror last December that he could make a last push to get the bill approved past the Senate just before the elections in May.
He said Sen. Pia Cayetano, the vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, has scheduled a committee hearing on the matter on Cebu in January. The meeting has been canceled, Chioson said.
“She promised to bring the first meeting of the committee to Cebu. It is now up to us Cebu congressmen to pursue the bill,” Gullas said. “With Senator Cayetano and other senators running for reelection, they could not turn away the eight Cebuano congressmen and two party-list Cebuano congressmen pushing this bill.”
HB 1319, creating the Cebu Economic Development Zone, is authored by all eight Cebuano congressmen in the House of Representatives. If passed, this will be the first time an entire province will be declared an economic zone to lure investors into mainland Cebu as well its main outlying island groups Camotes and Bantayan.
The bill’s proponents want to lure more investments into Cebu through incentives and tax holidays particularly on the island’s biggest industries—tourism, exports manufacturing and ICT.
The plan entails the creation of sub-zones in the island for specific types of investments. The bill is getting the full support of local businessmen who lobbied for funding from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation to conduct an initial study on the costs and benefits of creating a free port for the whole Cebu.
Another coauthor of the bill, Ramon Durano IV, representative of the Fifth District of Cebu, said the biggest opposition to the measure is from government revenue agencies as well as local government units who fear that they will lose revenues from businesses.
He earlier said the costs of creating the economic zone could also be prohibitive. He said a 50-hectare economic zone alone requires P1.2 billion in administrative and infrastructure budget.
Cebu has more than 50 towns and cities along with five major island groups.
(Business Mirror)

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