21 April 2020 (Tuesday)
Taguig City – Performing balancing acts amidst the quarantines or lockdowns, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director-General Charito “Ching” Plaza on Monday shared updates on the status of PEZA-registered ecozones, which are continuing operations while maintaining strict compliance to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) measures.
“During the ECQ period, PEZA has adapted various work schemes to ensure business continuity. The PEZA Head Office (HO) is on a Work from Home Arrangement. Transactions are electronically addressed. On the other hand, Administration offices in the ecozones continue to be in operation,” said Plaza.
PEZA frontliners in the ecozones continue to serve registered enterprises and clients with zone administration offices in full operation.
Status of PEZA-registered companies in ECQ as of April
As of April 20, 2020, from the current number of companies surveyed by PEZA nationwide, the percentage of operational companies in Luzon is 66% (835 companies), from Visayas 40% (176 companies), and from Mindanao 94% (31 companies).
However, as companies are continually adjusting to the ECQ situation, we have seen an increase of production from companies who are going back to operations, provided that they comply with the critera under the ECQ guidelines.
The PEZA Chief said that “PEZA’s Incident Command System (ICS) in response to the COVID-19 crisis established requirements for companies in ecozones to continue operations this period of ECQ.
“It is the choice of companies to continue operations during the ECQ. But those who want to do so must comply with the protocols issued by the Department of Health (DOH) to avoid COVID-19 infections in the workplace,” she said.
Thermal scanning equipment, alcohol, sanitizers, PPEs, and face masks were given to enterprises nationwide as well. Also, regular disinfection of workplace / production areas is being adhered to by companies in the ecozones. In line with the IATF’s condition for continued operations, PEZA-registered enterprises provided accommodation for their employees inside and/or within the immediate vicinity of the zone. Lastly, the provision of shuttle services was also put in place to help employees get to work.
Several memos have also been released to guide and issue directives to our registered enterprises that continue to operate during the ECQ. These were issued to ecozones directly through the Zone Managers and these are posted and available at the PEZA website. “It is our top priority that our ecozones are COVID-19 free after following these measures,” said Plaza.
Concerns and Issues amidst ECQ
Based on the survey conducted by PEZA, the issues and concerns of companies during this period have dramatically decreased since the first two weeks of the ECQ.
The availability of workers is the most pressing concern that companies face during this time as the lockdown took a toll on the workforce because of the suspension of public transportation. Other companies nationwide also expressed that they had problems with government checkpoints, access to goods, raw materials, supplies, and workers.
Regarding checkpoints, some LGUs may not be aware of exemptions given by the IATF and DTI for the continued transport of basic goods and other products to ensure that the supply chain is not disturbed. In response to this, DTI and the IATF issued several memos to guide the implementing offices, strictly emphasizing that vehicles carrying basic necessities should be allowed unhampered passage.
The third issue expressed by companies nationwide includes port clearing, online facilitation, import and export of shipments due to the long processing time of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), unreliable banking services, and hindered entry of personnel at checkpoints during this time. In a global sense, there were also problems with paperwork on shipment from other countries who are also on lockdown, not to mention the travel bans imposed by other countries.
Lastly, several companies also had problems with access to government institutions for permits, clarification on issuances, and emergency assistance. Due to the heavy demand for answers and assistance, the waiting time can be long and tedious. In response to this, the government assured the public that they are doing their best to assist and kindly asks for everyone’s patience.
“As we know that this is a unique time that we are all doing our best to cope with, PEZA continues to do its best to coordinate continually with various agencies and LGUs nationwide to ensure unhampered movement of goods, strict implementation of national directives, and address other concerns as well so that the supply the chain continues to run smoothly and our economy will not be severely crippled,” PEZA Director General Plaza said.