New Afab chairman seeks to quicken development of Bataan free port

In Photo: Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan Chairman and Administrator Emmanuel D. Pineda vows to quicken the pace of economic growth in the Freeport Area of Bataan.

MARIVELES, Bataan—The new head of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (Afab) has vowed to speed up the growth momentum of the special economic zone here and to further realize development potentials in what has been called the country’s fastest-growing free port.

In unveiling the agency’s direction under his command, Afab Chairman and Administrator Emmanuel D. Pineda said he will prioritize the free port’s expansion program to accommodate more investors and generate more jobs, and to sustain the financial stability of the zone.

“For the next six years, the Afab will ensure its programs, new projects and policies will be socially acceptable and will further help in making the free port operationally viable,” Pineda said.

He said, by 2022, the authority expects investments in the free port to double from the P107-billion total pledges it has approved since the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) was created in 2010, and for the 20,000-strong local work force to increase in number by 50 percent in the next three years.

He said the authority’s top projects will include the provision of housing for the increasing number of workers and locators in the free port, the expansion of FAB facilities, the establishment of a reliable transportation system for the relatively remote ecozone, and the construction of more ports in the area.

“Now that I am here, I’ll work hard with all [stakeholders] to realize these goals and action plan,” Pineda said in a statement, after taking over the Afab chairmanship from his predecessor Deogracias Custodio.

As of now, Pineda said the authority is lobbying for the approval of a P250-million annual budget to fund mostly infrastructure projects and new factory buildings to be leased out to business locators.

He said, from 2011 to 2015, Afab has been receiving a P100-million annual budget, which this year has been increased to P125 million. A bigger budget, Pineda explained, “is very significant for the development of the free port, especially its facilities.”

“It will help us achieve our goal to become the free port of choice by 2020,” Pineda added.

The FAB, which has grown from the Bataan Export Processing Zone—the country’s first “free-trade zone,” has been acknowledged as the fastest-growing free port in the Philippines in 2014, after generating more than P84 billion worth of investments that year from a little more than P2 billion the previous year.

Located about 170 kilometers northwest of Manila, the FAB has a total land area of 154 square kilometers—equivalent to 12 percent of the total land area of the province of Bataan, and is now considered a fashion-manufacturing hub because of its cluster of companies that produce high-end brands of garment, apparel, shoes and accessories.

Pineda said the Afab aspires to further develop the Bataan free port into a center of trade, innovation and sustainable development, and the promotion of work-life balance and global competitiveness.

Pineda, who was appointed Afab chairman by President Duterte on October 10, had served as Afab deputy administrator for operations since August 2010. Before that, he variously served as engineering manager and economic zone manager at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

A native of Bataan and a graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where he received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Pineda had chalked up a lifetime of experience and expertise in construction and engineering supervision, as well as management of government and private infrastructure projects, foremost of which are the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant Project in Morong, Bataan, and the Georgia Power Plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, US.

Pineda also served as estate administrator of the Makati Central Business District and the Bonifacio Global City under the Ayala Properties Management Corp.



Written by

Henry Empeño, Business Mirror