House leader renews call for ‘reimagined’ dev’t of Taal area

House leader renews call for ‘reimagined’ dev’t of Taal area

MANILA – A leader of the House of Representatives on Monday renewed his call for a “reimagined” development of the area around the Taal volcano as it continues increased unrest and the threat of another eruption lingers.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Joey Salceda said there is a need for a comprehensive framework for the enhanced reconstruction of the Taal area, or the South of Manila Growth Corridor (SMGC), to encourage development outside the danger zone.

The idea, Salceda said, is to put up the necessary infrastructure support, economic incentives, and policy direction for more resilient development.

“We really need to go for more adaptive development in the area,” he said.

Salceda filed House Bill 5977, or the proposed Taal Eruption Recovery Rehabilitation and Adaptation (TERRA) Act, which aims to develop a long-term socioeconomic reconstruction program for communities most directly impacted by Taal’s activity, embedding adaptation in infrastructure and social investments.

“The (TERRA) plan shall be based on the principle of building back better forward which should go beyond restoring the area to its former state or condition but instead use this opportunity to leapfrog area development given its proximity to Metro Manila–the seat of economic power,” Salceda said.

The bill promotes the safe, sustainable, long-term development of what shall be referred to as the SMGC through the fast-tracking of the construction of strategic infrastructure, as well as the mapping of safe areas for industrial, commercial, and residential development.

He also called on the government to make preparations on energy supply, industrial continuity, emergency response, and economic relief in response to a possible eruption of the Taal volcano.

“The most probable national challenge that could arise out of the Taal eruption is damage to the energy and manufacturing sectors. These industries are highly concentrated around the area. We have to have contingencies,” Salceda said.

He noted that the energy sector is particularly at risk, as all of the country’s natural gas power plants and several geothermal, coal, and biomass power plants are in Batangas.

“All in all, there are 20 power plants in Batangas. They account for 5,255.9 MW of installed capacity, or 30.9 percent of the Luzon Grid. This very high concentration of power sources in an area prone to the same set of hazards is something we need to address with power supply diversification,” Salceda said.

He urged the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Board of Investments to come up with strategies to encourage power generation companies to diversify their production bases and use the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act to make such diversification financially viable.

“The tool most immediately available to us and the next administration is CREATE. Subject to industry classification in the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan, power plants could qualify for income tax holidays (ITH) of 4-7 years, plus enhanced deductions of 5 years, plus 2 years if in areas recovering from armed conflict or a major disaster, plus 3 years ITH if relocating from NCR (National Capital Region) to all other areas. That is up to 17 years of incentives,” Salceda said. (PNA)

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