THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is aiming to have military reservation areas declared as defense industrial economic zones before the end of the Duterte administration.

PEZA is planning to transform military reservation areas in Fort Bonifacio, Camp Evangelista, and Maguindanao into defense industrial complexes to manufacture military weapons and equipment.

PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza in a mobile message on Tuesday said that she is hoping Malacañang will issue the presidential proclamation as soon as possible, or at least before President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his term by mid-2022.

“They’re now preparing the documents to have the proclamation for the new use as ecozones,” she said.

The Philippine Army, she said in a statement, manages almost 20,000 hectares of military reservation areas, spurring her agency’s plans to develop them into industrial complexes.

“We hope to invite investors and defense industries who will manufacture military aircraft, seacraft, weapons, equipment, software, hardware, uniforms, and all those that the military and police will be needing,” Ms. Plaza said.

All locators at PEZA ecozones receive tax incentives.

“We really need to locally produce our defense requirements and reduce our dependency to foreign suppliers,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana said in the same statement. “Of course, we need the technology that other countries have for us to establish [defense industries] here in our country.”

The House of Representatives last month approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8212 or the Special Defense Economic Zone (SpeDEZ) Act, which establishes a defense industrial zone in Camp Gen. Antonio Luna in Bataan to be run by a new independent government body.

Drawing 197 affirmative votes, the bill saw the six Makabayan bloc members vote against as they casted doubts on the bill’s ability to reduce import dependence and criticized police and military operations against government critics. — Jenina P. Ibañez