The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill lifting the restrictions on the Philippines National Oil Company to operate solely petrochemical-related enterprises inside an industrial estate in Bataan and allow the entry of other businesses engaged in energy and energy-related infrastructure projects.
Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and author of Senate Bill No. 2916, said limitation imposed by Presidential Degree (PD) No. 949 has rendered the 530-hectare industrial park unavailable to potential investors who are engaged in businesses other than petrochemicals. "Since its inception in 1995, the park has never achieved financial and commercial viability and has incurred losses totaling P1.3 billion from 1997 to 2010. At present, there are only three locators in the 170-hectare developed portion of the estate when it can accommodate at least 10. With the low turnout of locators, most of the landholdings remain idle or underutilized," Recto said. The low turnout of locators in the park is a reflection of the petrochemical industry's situation in the country whose financial viability is adversely affected by factors such as the low local demand for petrochemical products; competition from other countries; capital requirement and uncontrolled smuggling.
Recto suggested maximizing the economic potential of the park by implementing a multi-purpose or mixed utilization of the estate instead of scrapping off the project. Meanwhile, Sen. Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and sponsor of the bill, said enactment of the proposed legislation into law will develop the park into a complete and integrated hub that will be more responsive to the needs of prospective foreign and local investors. "The proposed measure seeks to contribute to the government's thrust of poverty and alleviation, employment generation and sustained economic growth and recovery," Escudero said.