More eco-zones sought

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


THE idea of turning the entire province of Cebu into an economic zone may pose difficulty in terms of controlling the entry and exit of goods, Philippine Export Zone Authority (Peza) Director General Lilia de Lima said.

Interviewed by reporters Thursday at the inauguration of Knowles Electronics Philippines, de Lima said that with imported and exported goods becoming tax-free, movement of goods would be difficult for customs officials to monitor.

However, she encouraged the development of more economic zones, saying the Philippines is on investors’ radars after securing investment grade ratings from top international ratings agencies. She said that if facilities are already in place, it would be easier for investors to choose the Philippines as their next location.

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De Lima said 677 projects were registered last year and about 85 percent are foreign-owned. There are 297 economic zones in the country.

In Cebu, three industrial parks already operate and a fourth one is expected in Minglanilla. “We need more areas to offer to investors. Some will have to wait because there is no more area available. Many of them want it available right away,” she said.

Though investors in semiconductors and electronics continue to be interested in the Philippines, the Peza hopes to encourage more investments in shipbuilding, car parts, agri-industrial projects and food processing. Investments in these industries are needed to provide jobs for about one million Filipinos that reach working age each year. Fifty percent of locators in Peza are in electronics.

While many of these are college graduates and can find jobs in the information technology sector, de Lima said jobs for those who finished high school and those who have not, especially in the D and E classes, are much needed.

For every job provided by investors, de Lima said at least six get hired indirectly.

As an example, she said the Tsuneishi shipyard in Balamban employs some 8,000 regular workers but workers reach 15,000 to 20,000 when they are pushing to meet deadlines and targets. The Philippines ranks fourth in the world when it comes to shipbuilding, trailing South Korea, Japan and China.

De Lima said Filipinos are proving they can do well in shipbuilding and she is especially proud of female welders who are being tasked to handle the more sensitive parts.

Although high power cost remains an issue for investors, de Lima said the country’s labor force more than makes up for this. Despite the high cost of power, de Lima noted that there are no blackouts in the country’s economic zones.

Also, she noted that Cebu’s workers are not known for holding labor strikes, which is an attractive prospect for foreign investors. She said Filipino workers do not complain when asked to work overtime as long as they are properly compensated for it.

Another attractive prospect for investors is the country’s demographics, said the Peza chief, citing it has the youngest population in the region with a median age of 22 to 23 years old.

De Lima assured that investors will enjoy “red carpet service” rather than red tape if they invest with the Peza.

“Since 1995, Peza has delivered on its own brand of service,” she told guests at the Knowles inauguration. She said they work on all holidays except Good Friday and that they do not tolerate graft and corruption.

She encouraged the guests to spread the word about the Philippines and pay a visit to see it for themselves.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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