MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to "hasten" the development of special economic zones in rural areas and halt ecozone approvals in Metro Manila.
The move seemed in line with the administration's push for the decentralization of power while proposals for federalism remained in limbo in the legislature.
Duterte's Administrative Order No. 18 directed the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to "no longer accept, process or evaluate applications for the establishment of ecozones in Metro Manila" while government agencies should "hasten human capital and infrastructure development" in the countryside.
Under the law, businesses operating in areas declared as ecozones could enjoy tax-free importations, years of tax holidays, exemption from payment of any government fees, among others.
"There is a need to promote rural development, ensure inclusive growth in the countryside, and create robust economic activity and wealth generation in areas outside Metro Manila," the order dated June 17, 2019 read.
The order will be implemented as soon as it is is published in national broadsheets. Applications pending at the Office of the President are not covered by the moratorium, it read.
The order comes a month before Duterte is expected to deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address.
Duterte is pushing for a shift from a unitarian to a federal form of government, believing this would spur countryside development. The Mindanaoan president has long held that opportunities for progress have been limited within 'imperial Manila.'
The legislative branch has yet to decide on charter change proposals despite the administration's supermajority coalition in the House of Representatives.
Several lawmakers earlier conceded that the Philippines is not yet ready for a federal shift as the electorate has yet to fully grasp the concept.