Press Release
September 4, 2008


Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas will be in General Santos City to promote his bill to make Mindanao a freeport to boost job opportunities and provide an economic solution to decades-old separatist problems in the island.

Roxas has filed Senate Bill No. 2580 that would create a Mindanao Special Economic Zone and Freeport to foster development in Mindanao amid the turmoil brought about by recent insurgencies and the uncertainty of the botched GRP-MILF Peace Panel Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which had threatened to include General Santos and other LGUs as part of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity separate from the Philippines.

"With the entire peace process in peril, as a result of the dissolution of the government peace panel, our citizens in Mindanao need a more stable economic environment as provided by the government. This will go hand in hand with continued talks with Bangsamoro representatives so as to come up with a genuine peace agreement," he said.

The bill will give the entire Mindanao the same status as other freeports in the country such as in Subic and Clark, where businesses have perks including: income tax holiday, net operating loss carryover, and a 5% gross income tax in lieu of all other taxes except real estate taxes, among other incentives.

Roxas will also be at tomorrow's closing ceremonies of the 10th Tuna Festival, as keynote speaker. "Tuna is a vital resource in this city and for the whole country. It buoys our food industry, and provides jobs and incomes for many in Gensan. We must do all we can for this industry to continue to prosper," he said.

The tuna industry has been recognized by Roxas as an important one for a long time now, and he has made efforts to ensure the growth of the industry even as Trade Secretary from 2000-2003, such as fighting for low tariffs of tuna exports. Among those attending the event are General Santos Mayor Pedro Acharon, Jr. and General Santos Rep. Darlene Antonino.

"There's always room for growth in the industry. We have tremendous opportunities up ahead, and I have confidence that those in private enterprise and we as a country will be able to rise to the challenges," he said.

He said economic stability was paramount in this time of uncertainty in Mindanao, brought about by renewed attacks in neighboring provinces and the inability of the government peace panel to bring real and lasting peace.

"Our people need to feel safe and secure, and feel that the government is capable of protecting them. This is why I am calling for an all-out presence of military troops in Mindanao. Without this protection, our people will seek to arm themselves, and this vigilantism will only bring about more bloodshed," he added.

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