PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed a measure expanding the territory of the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) to create more investment opportunities for the province.

Mr. Duterte signed the bill that became Republic Act (RA) No. 11453 on Aug. 30. It amends RA 9728 or the Freeport of Bataan Act of 2009 to clarify and expand the freeport’s territory.

The new law extends the Bataan freeport’s territory to include the rest of Mariveles outside the former Bataan Economic Zone and its municipal waters, as well as the alienable and disposable public lands and municipal waters of the expansion areas.

In his statement in May, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, author of Senate Bill No. 2133, noted that FAB is “spread over an area of 1,600 hectares, although much of this is not ripe for development due to its mountainous nature.”

“Of the 456 hectares that are considered developed, 355 are occupied, leaving only 101 hectares for further development,” he added.

With the inclusion of the rest of Mariveles in the FAB territory, more opportunities for investment will be created, the Senator said.

The law also raised the capital stock contributed by the government to the AFAB to P2.5 billion, from the present P2 billion, with an option to increase capitalization upon the discretion of the AFAB.

Mr. Gatchalian noted the Bataan freeport may be a potential investment destination that will help improve the poverty rate in the area. He said the freeport has created 39,226 jobs as of December 2018.

The second quarter saw AFAB accounting for P15.1 million (0.03%) in foreign direct investment (FDI) commitments, according to preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Data from AFAB were not available for the year-earlier period.

The second-quarter pledges brought foreign commitments in the first half to P95.56 billion, up 111.6% from a year earlier.

Combined investment pledges by Filipino and foreign nationals totaled P107 billion in the second quarter, down 6.7% from a year earlier.

Domestic investors accounted for 53.7% of the total investment pledges during the quarter.

Should they materialize, foreign and local investments pledged in the second quarter are expected to generate 30,135 jobs across industries. — Arjay L. Balinbin