Marites Maguindra, assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry-ARMM, said that lack of funds hampered efforts to entice investors to put up ventures in the 123-hectare economic free zone in Parang town in the newly created Shariff Kabunsuan province.
She said they have already sought P15 million for the authority’s operation, which was even endorsed by Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita charged the amount against the Department of Public Works and Highways but Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane said his department no longer has funds for the REZA, said Maguindra.
“Without a fund, how could we promote the potentials of the economic zone?” she lamented.
The REZA law was created by the ARMM legislative assembly in compliance with the 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as mandated by Republic Act 9054 or the ARMM Organic Act.
REZA is patterned after the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, which established the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo authored this law when she was still senator.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the full operationalization of the REZA is a priority thrust under the comprehensive peace process as reflected in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004 – 2010.
But DTI-ARMM Secretary Ishak Mastura said that despite the lack of funds, they are now putting in place regulations that will govern future trade shipments at the free port economic zone.
He said that once full operationalized, REZA will be earning money in 5 to 10 years’ time.
The REZA law provides the legal framework and mechanism for the creation, operation, administration, and coordination of the special economic zones within the region.
Under the REZA law, traders are entitled to incentives such as a uniform tax of five percent on gross revenue, tax holidays, tax exemptions, duty-free privileges, waivers of fees and charges, including tax deductions.
ARMM Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan endorsed several months ago to the President the release of P15 million for the authority to finally and fully perform its functions.
The DTI-ARMM is presently acting as the ad interim implementing agency for the REZA law.