Fellow senators' push for Bulacan airport bill irks Pia Cayetano

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2020 09:43 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2020 12:00 AM

Sen. Pia Cayetano answers questions from colleagues on Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1357 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) on September 29, 2020. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Sen. Pia Cayetano on Monday ranted in plenary after the Senate leadership denied her request to be given at least a day to study a bill that would grant San Miguel Corp. a franchise to build the Bulacan Airport.

Cayetano told other senators she felt bad that she was not allowed to study the franchise bill, considering that she has been preoccupied with defending the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill for several days in plenary.

"Kaya masama ang loob ko kasi 'pag 'yung iba humingi ng time to study, pinagbibigyan ninyo pero ako na nakasalang sa floor, hindi ninyo man lang maisip pagbigyan," Cayetano said.

"This was secondarily referred to my committee so ibig sabihin importante 'yung input ko," she said.

"I don't understand why this has to be done today. Why not tomorrow?" she said.

Cayetano also noted that the Senate seems to be more willing to work overtime to pass San Miguel's franchise to construct the Bulacan Airport, while her CREATE bill - which will lower the corporate income tax rate and rationalizes incentives for investors - has yet to be voted upon.

"I feel that I am not getting enough support that my good friend, Sen. Grace Poe, is getting," Cayetano said, referring to Poe who is the sponsor of the Bulacan Airport franchise bill.

"I am envious. I feel envious that Sen. Grace has all the support to pass this bill tonight pero pag ako ang nagre-request na ituloy natin, o sige bukas na lang, postpone na lang," she said.

"Nagdadamdam lang naman ako mga kasama," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told Cayetano that she should not be envious of the support the Bulacan Airport - also known as San Miguel AeroCity - is getting.

Zubiri noted that compared to the CREATE bill, the Bulacan Airport project is a "no brainer" as it would give the country a "world class airport" at no cost to the government.

"CREATE is on the table everyday. Unfortunately, we have colleagues that feel that the removal of incentives is not an easy thing to do," the Senate Majority Leader said.

"If it was just purely the bringing down of income tax, we can pass it right now. But we are removing incentives across the board," he said.

"We want to push for something we believe in. We believe in CREATE as well but it is a bit more complicated," he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Bulacan Airport franchise bill needs to be passed on second reading this evening, otherwise, it would not be approved on final reading before Congress goes on a break on October 17.

"Unlike CREATE, it is not certified as urgent. Therefore, there won’t be time for a bicam and ratification before the 14th break," Sotto told reporters in a text message.

Under the law, Congress can only pass a bill on third reading at least 3 days after the measure was approved on second reading to ensure that lawmakers were given sufficient time to study the proposal.

"SMC is already spending billions for the country and further delay is regressive to their investment," Sotto said. 

The Senate president also said in plenary that he helped conceptualize the Bulacan Airport airport project along with SMC President Ramon Ang and late SMC chair Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco.

Cojuangco founded the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), where Sotto sits as the current party chair, and whose members include senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Lito Lapid.

"I have nothing to do with it. I am not involved, but it was part of my idea along with Danding Cojuangco and Ramon Ang many years ago," Sotto told Cayetano.

"I am the chairman of the party (NPC) that's why I'm pushing for this," he said.

Cayetano underscored that she was not trying to delay the passage of the Bulacan Airport's franchise bill, but asserted that she only wanted to study the measure so she can "also come up with good solutions."

"Kailan niyo ba ako nakilala na nagtagal ng sobra-sobrang tagal na inubos ko po oras ninyo? Na nag-filibustering ako? Never," she said.

"I have never tried to delay a bill. I think I owe the respect to be given time to ask questions," she said.

Despite her appeal, the Senate leadership did not grant Cayetano's request to ask questions about the bill on October 6.

"Wala akong kinakalaban. I'm just asking for the space I need," she said.

"All I want to do is manage my time so I can do my job well," she said.

"I will just swallow my self-pity," she said.