Bataan free port: A job magnet
MARIVELES, Bataan—While the local government has yet to reap taxes from the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB), the former Bataan Economic Zone (BEZ) is now generating employment for this town’s residents.
Mayor Jesse Concepcion said economic activities in this industrial town had improved since the inception of the FAB three years ago.
“We may not receive enough benefits from FAB in terms of profit share for the town government, but we gain immeasurably in terms of employment,” said Concepcion.
Local officials credit the FAB’s success to Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr., who invited investors to generate employment for residents. The 51 companies operating at the FAB provide jobs to about 14,000 workers.
In a statement, the governor said the FAB’s growth was such that former overseas workers choose not to return abroad and work instead in the free port.
Many fresh graduates of Bataan’s educational institutions, like Bataan Peninsula State University, are employed in well-paying jobs inside the FAB, the statement said.
Vilma Estrada, 38, a worker for a garments factory at the FAB, said she was happy with her job despite being a contractual worker.
“Life in FAB is better even though we work from one factory to another,” Estrada said.
The FAB was created through Republic Act No. 9728, sponsored by the governor’s son, Bataan Rep. Albert Raymond Garcia, to revive the declining BEZ under Epza.
Epza, created by RA 5490 during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos, was mandated to establish export or foreign trading zones in Mactan, Baguio and Cavite and with Bataan being the main export zone.
But in the 1980s, labor strikes hampered the operation of export zone enterprises in Bataan to the point where companies closed down due to labor disputes.
Concepcion said proof of the improved economic activity brought by the FAB was that stall holders at the Mariveles public market were now able to pay their stall rentals promptly, unlike before when payments were delayed for months due to slow business activity.
Records showed that of 71 approved enterprises, 51 are operational while 20 firms are to operate.
Some locators build their own factories to start operations immediately. Under the FAB charter, investors are entitled to tax holidays and can buy land and other property for expansion and tourism-related ventures.
Occupying 1,691.55 hectares, the FAB is complete with residential, commercial, industrial, tourism and agricultural lands.
The FAB derives its power from the National Transmission Corp. and San Miguel Energy Corp.
Lawyer Joey Angeles, a FAB board member, said the FAB partially gets electricity from GN Power, a 600-megawatt coal-fired plant in Barangay Alas-asin here. The plant, which is expected to start full operations this year, is capable of supplying electricity to the Luzon power grid.
Governor Garcia announced last year that Bataan would enjoy cheaper electricity with the full operation of GN Power. “With lower production cost, we will definitely attract more investors,” he said.