21 May 2020 (Thursday)
Taguig City – The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), one of the top investment promotion agencies in the country that contributes the biggest export income to the national government, continues to implement a perfect balancing act in addressing the health and quarantine requirements, and support the continuous operations of 60% of its 4,542 companies nationwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to PEZA Director General Charito “Ching” Plaza, “Since the start of this crisis, PEZA has done its best to implement effective balancing acts to protect the health and welfare of its workers and in assisting the continuous operations of its ecozones and export companies.”
"PEZA is now very much ready for a full blast operation of its ecozones and companies. We also invite American, Japanese, and European companies transferring from China, encouraging and assisting its existing investors to expand and build branches in the countryside in support of the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa” program of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Senator Bong Go,” said Plaza.
The Director General has recently finished conducting her ‘listening tour’ to ecozones in CALABARZON, Region 3, Region 1, Metro Manila, Region 7 and in selected areas of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to dialogue with the ecozone operators and locator companies on the effects of the quarantine imposed starting March 15.
Status of Operations
For the duration of April 13 - 30, 2020, a total of 40 companies are fully operating while 1,382 are utilizing either skeletal force or work-from-home scheme. Around 1,018 companies are not operational or have no production. This is according to the survey done by PEZA nationwide with about 2,440 respondents (some respondents represent multiple branches/sites).
According to Plaza, “We have allowed companies to operate on the condition that they comply with the directives by PEZA and the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).” Such includes the implementation of strict social distancing measures, disinfection of premises, thermal scanning, and distribution of sanitents, alcohols, masks, and hand sanitizers among others.
But despite the continuous operations of some companies, they have encountered operational difficulties such as the checkpoints, access of goods/raw materials/ supplies and workers, access to government institutions for permits, clarification on issuance, emergency assistance, port clearing, online facilitation, and import and export of shipment.
“This is why a unified and synchronized plan, rules, policies, and enforcements is important among government agencies and LGUs. Cooperation is key for government agencies to facilitate and balance our focus on public health and the continued production especially of essential products during this pandemic,” noted Plaza.
Measures in place to support ecozone companies and workers
To further provide assistance, Plaza said that “PEZA had launched initiatives to jumpstart with its support to its registered companies, industries and locators including the agency’s support to immediate economic recovery post COVID-19.”
The measures include allowing companies to implement work-from-home arrangements for up to 70%, easing of the passing of requirements for, extension of validity of certificates, deferment of payments, and giving grace period for old unpaid accounts among others.
“PEZA implemented economic stimulus and adjustments to its existing policies to assist and support the rehabilitation and business continuity plans of the export enterprises as well as enhance the efficiency factors to put back a more vibrant economy,” said the PEZA Chief.
To continue the strict enforcement of the health and quarantine requirements, PEZA also launched its COVID-free, green, healthy, sustainable, and smart economic zones.
“Under the COVID-free, green, healthy, sustainable, and smart economic zones program, PEZA’s goal is to maintain its ecozones as COVID-free, with its strict enforcement of the health guidelines and directives to ensure the protection of both the workers, investors, and host communities of ecozones,” said Plaza.
Furthermore, the agency plans to establish its own COVID-19 testing facilities in its four public economic zones namely: Baguio City Economic Zone, Pampanga Economic Zone, Cavite Economic Zone, and Mactan Economic Zone. The same facilities will also be strategically located in private economic zones to cater to its workers.
“We are currently coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) for this program. We plan to provide both the rapid test kits and the PCR test on the said facilities so that the companies will have a choice on either of the methods,” noted the PEZA Chief.
PEZA will likewise construct dormitories/housing facilities in its four public ecozones and have its own shuttle services for use by the locators.
“This will not only be used for emergencies but, in coping with the locators’ losses during the crisis. We are encouraging the private ecozone operators to do the same to ensure the investors of a safe and secured Philippine ecozones,” said the Director General.
Plaza added that “PEZA aims to fully industrialize the country by spreading economic zones, industries, jobs, technology all around the Philippines, and develop our millions of hectares idle lands, making the MSMEs, farmers, and every Filipino contribute in the attainment in the total development of the country. This is for us to become self-reliant, self-sustaining and resource generating, making the Philippines an investment haven in Asia.”