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Manila Bulletin - 2021-05-05

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Ecozones continue operation despite lockdown

Business News

Despite the continuing movement restrictions, economic zones still operate at higher capacity and continued to employ over a million workers across the country. Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Charito B. Plaza said that during the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) period from April 12-16, economic zones were operating at 90 percent capacity or 2,701 companies continued to open nationwide. This enabled 1,193,813 employees to work under various work schemes. Broken down, Plaza said that 84 percent of the IT-BPO industry continued to operate while the manufacturing sector at 94 percent. Meantime, Plaza has appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to include economic frontline workers in the A4 priority group for COVID-19 vaccination. “PEZA-registered companies, ecozone and industry workers are considered frontline workers as they have continued working to ensure the unhampered service to contribute to the global supply chain,” said Plaza in a letter on April 23 to IATF Head Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. “In phases of Community Quarantine (CQ), from ECQ to GCQ ECQ, the IATF has always managed to strike a balance between the need to aggressively respond to COVID19 and the need to allow essential business sectors to operate and keep the economy afloat. Hence, the BPO and export-oriented sectors were allowed to operate as a measure to cushion the adverse impact of COVID-19 to the economy, subject to strict compliance with health and quarantine protocols,” she stated. Referring to PEZA’s ‘balancing acts’ and relief measures during the pandemic, the PEZA Chief said that “PEZA has been hitting two birds in one stone since the beginning of this health crisis. As we give assistance and reprieves to our locator companies who play a big role in keeping our economy afloat, we are protecting the jobs and livelihood of our 1.5 million workers.” PEZA also cited in its letter various memoranda released by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which further emphasized the importance of locators and ecozone workers during this pandemic and to better prepare the country for post-COVID economic rebound. Under the government’s vaccination program priority list, the A4 category is the group of frontline personnel in essential sectors, which has now been expanded to include additional sectors like the transportation workers, market vendors, religious leaders, overseas Filipino workers, and members of the press. PEZA is also helping on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines by PEZA-registered companies. According to Plaza, PEZA is facilitating the locators’ purchase of vaccines on a per ecozone basis for ease of administration and subject to strict compliance with COVID vaccination protocols. To date, PEZA manages a total of 410 economic zones across the Philippines and has registered about 4,643 locator companies. “The ecozone vaccination program is one best way PEZA can contribute to the attainment of herd immunity, which will accelerate the country's full reopening of the economy and transition to the new normal,” she said. (Bernie CahilesMagkilat)

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