THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) is seeking to build mineral processing economic zones in the country to lessen the export of raw minerals.

Peza Director General Charito Plaza said the country has a strong potential to develop mineral processing hubs because of the presence of rich mineral reserves.

Plaza said these hubs are part of the potential new types of economic zones she wants to create during her term, which also include agro-forestry and defense industrial zones.

The Peza official said it is about time the country built this special zone to boost the value of products being exported globally.

“We are inviting industries to convert these raw minerals into high-value finished products,” said Plaza, during the Visayas Ecozone Summit last Thursday.

Establishing mineral processing ecozones would also put a stop to environmental abuse such as the export of raw minerals including soil by some mining firms in Mindanao.

The Philippines is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper, and chromite. It is home to the largest copper-gold deposit in the world.

Mineral exports in 2015 was valued at $2.797 billion, according to figures from Mine and Geosciences Bureau. Copper, gold and nickel are the top mineral exports to countries like Japan, Australia, Canada and China.

Plaza also assured potential investors and industries of the incentives they can get in locating to an economic zone.

Peza locators are provided with incentives such as income tax holiday, tax and duty free importation of raw materials and capital equipment, domestic sales allowance, exemption from payment of local government taxes and fees, and special visa for foreign investors and immediate family members, among others.

Moreover, Plaza also corrected the negative perception that local government units (LGUs) will not earn in building ecozones because of the given perks.

She referred the industries inside ecozones as “geese that lay golden eggs” because of the multiplier effect it gives to the town or the province.

Although these industries may enjoy tax breaks, Plaza said they generate jobs, which boost spending and create new businesses.

“So now, the LGUs can collect more taxes from workers, new businesses and property owners,” she said.

Plaza challenged LGUs to come up with additional incentives to locators because as soon as the nationwide ecozone map is established, LGUs could face tighter competition among themselves.