Olongapo, a freeport city?
Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. is certainly making sure that legal hitches are being ironed out this early as he met with Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar Purisima regarding the local government’s plan.
Cognizant of the potentials of the city which has been progressing over the years as shown by the establishment of more infrastructure projects and continued implementation of developmental programs particularly those that directly affect the less privileged residents, Sec. Purisima wastes no time as he acts favorably.
He directs lawyer Ephyro Luis Amatong, of the DOF’s Privatization Office, to work closely with the city government to complete the necessary documentation so that the Olongapo Freeport proposal can be immediately submitted to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Mayor Gordon then instructs City Planning Officer Engr. Marivic Nierras to identify all possible areas in the city especially the current areas whose development potentials have not yet been maximized that can be prioritized for development as extension of the Subic Special Economic Zone.
The visibly-optimistic Olongapo mayor says: “Once the special economic zone status is given to these areas, they have a greater chance of developing into a self-sustaining, industrial, commercial, financial and investment center that could generate more employment opportunities and even more businesses and industries.”
Present during the meeting between Gordon and Purisima include Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Roberto Garcia, SBMA Director Anne Gordon, the mayor’s wife and the city’s First Lady and Joeben Reyes, and Nierras.
Olongapo City is willing to tie-up with other municipalities wanting to avail of tax privileges enjoyed by businesses under a Freeport regime. We all want to keep up with the development in Subic Bay Freeport and we want to level the playing field, according to the city chief executive.
The Freeport vision is not without legal basis, Mayor Gordon is saying.
He has pointed to Executive Order No. 675 which provides for the development of additional areas contiguous to Subic Bay Freeport but outside its secured area that will be given tax and duty free privileges and may be operated as special economic zones under the supervision of the SBMA.
EO 675 allows the extension of the secured area of the Subic Bay Special Economic and Freeport Zone (SSEFPZ) to areas within the SSEFPZ but outside the fenced-in former US Naval Base as stated under Proclamation no. 532 which defines the metes and bounds of the SSEFPZ as provided in R.A. 7227 – the law which created the Freeport.
Garcia, for his part, says the additional Freeport areas, as provided in EO 675, can maintain their autonomy and independence as a local government unit.
Go, go Olongapo, with Mayor Gordon at the helm nothing is impossible.