AFAB posts highest growth rate among Freeports

Bataan Freeport - Just almost three years in existence, the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) is making waves in the business arena after it posted the highest growth rate among investment promotion agencies (IPA) in the country.

A record-breaking among state-owned free ports in the country, located along the sprawling 1,691-hectare industrial complex, AFAB has surpassed the seven other big IPAs including the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in terms of growth rate from 2011 to 2012, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

While other IPAs were suffering from millions in setback, AFAB posted a 354.2 percent growth rate due to an enormous leap in its foreign investments from P86 million in 2011 to P390 million last year.

''AFAB registered the highest increase, expanding by more than four times the P86 million approved [foreign investments] in 2011,'' said NSCB in the report.

AFAB has become into law after Bataan Rep. Abet S. Garcia, now newly-elected governor of Bataan, had sponsored a bill converting the once bankrupt Bataan Economic Zone (BEZ) into Bataan Free Port, now called AFAB.

Two economic zones in Central Luzon, the CDC in Pampanga and the SBMA in nearby Olongapo whose large area belongs also to Bataan province, incurred double-digit declines of 76 percent and 96 percent respectively.

Garcia said thousands of jobs are expected to be further employed in Bataan as companies of different industries, particularly manufacturing and shipbuilding, latest of them Turkish investors, come in.

This as AFAB recorded the highest increase in projected employment at 136 percent from 585 jobs in 2011 to 1,385 jobs last year.

''The FAB overshot its target for 2011 and 2012, and is now looking at a more robust development in 2013. We intend to equal, if not surpass, what we have achieved last year,'' reported AFAB Chairman Deogracias Custodio. According to the NSCB, the manufacturing sector remained the top industry in the country with P136.8 billion worth of investment pledges or 59.4 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, the top three investing countries for 2012 were Netherlands, Japan and the United States.

FAB is home to more than 70 locators that engage in the manufacturing of electronics, garments and textiles, leather luggage, handbags and footwear, fiberglass, furniture and fixtures, rubber and plastic products, and chemicals and chemical derivatives.