28 March 2020 (Saturday)
Taguig City – Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Charito “Ching” Plaza has sought the assistance of various National Government agencies and LGU hosts to help in its ecozone locator companies’ compliance on the enhanced quarantine guidelines.
In a letter addressed to the President dated March 27, the PEZA Chief said that, “In PEZA’s two-week experience in combating COVID-19, we realized that government measures must essentially focus on health, economy & public order.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic as a global crisis will certainly end sooner or later. But the inflicted toll on the affected countries with the resulting socio-economic impacts will be felt for several years even after regaining normalcy. Thus, it becomes imperative for the country under your able leadership to strike a balance between protecting public health and safety, and keeping the economy afloat and the critical institutions running to ensure our victory in this fight against COVID-19 crisis,” said Plaza.
Like other agencies, PEZA has released numerous advisories and directives, through Memorandum Circulars, to assist and assure the unhampered delivery of services to its export-oriented companies who wish to continue its operations during this time. Meanwhile, PEZA warned against faked or falsified advisories allegedly issued by the agency. It says that its legitimate issuances are posted in the agency’s website.
But according to Plaza, even PEZA’s efforts met enormous problems and concerns because of the huge population of workers in every ecozones especially in Luzon. “PEZA's courses of actions for its ecozone operators and companies comply with the President’s pronouncements and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) quarantine requirements. These include providing temporary housing and shuttle buses/vehicles services for workers to assure the safety and welfare of everyone in this period, although it is not enough to provide for all but only for skeletal workforce,” said Plaza.
PEZA support gov’t efforts to survive COVID-19
The PEZA Chief explained that “PEZA's economic zones are likened to municipalities and cities in a way that it has a sizeable population, linkages and community. The 406 ecozones nationwide has a total of 1,601,492 directly employed workers and there are also PEZA-registered service providers, which are all doing business in ecozones and companies, employ about 6.5 million.”
Plaza believed that “With the collective effort of both the National Government, its agencies, the LGUs, and other stakeholders, we are hopeful we will be able to get through this crisis as one.”
That being said, Plaza suggested that, “in combating the spread of the virus, public schools and other buildings should be utilized and be retrofitted for use as temporary isolation/medical facilities considering that our hospitals are now over-capacity and have started to turned down PUMs and PUIs.”
She added that, “For economic purposes, some of them may be utilized to temporarily housed ecozone workers who are challenged by the IATF restriction on movement of ecozone personnel. The idle buildings and warehouses, whether public or private, may also serve as logistics facilities particularly for food products to ensure food security.”
Further, the Director General requested “to enjoin the IATF and the LGUs to assist the covered companies’ needs for housing and shuttle facilities and personal protective equipment/gears, and safe passage in the checkpoints for ecozone cargoes and shuttle buses ferrying the workers.”
On his part, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, since March 20, 2020, urged LGUs to follow IATF-EID guidelines and this includes all cargoes should always be allowed to pass through checkpoints.
Año said “There must be coordination, dialogue, and agreement (…) For example, the checkpoint and passing of cargo, kasama diyan dapat lahat ng cargo, especially food and medicines, should be unhampered (…) Malinaw ang guidelines kaya kailangang sundin.”
“The value of helping one another particularly in this time of crisis has ignited among our kababayan the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation in support of government’s measures to contain the virus and its ill effects. With this, let us come together to stand and act as one nation for the betterment of everyone,” said Plaza.