Malacañang approval of new ecozones still hangs
Despite increasing public pressure to pick up the pace, Malacañang has barely progressed on the backlog of economic zones pending approval, reflecting a combined value of P500 billion worth of investments that could not move forward due to the delay.
This was according to Charito Plaza, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza), who said that there were 58 ecozone applications submitted to the Office of the President for approval.
Out of the backlog that dates back to more than a year ago, only six economic zones have been approved, five of which were meant to house companies belonging to the Information Technology-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry.
Projects to develop economic zones need the approval of Malacañang before operations could officially begin. This also means that the companies that would be based in the ecozone, also known as locators, would have to wait for Malacañang’s green light before commencing with their investments.
According to Plaza, investors have been complaining about the delay, particularly how long it took compared to previous administrations, such as a two-week delay under Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and at most two months for former President Aquino.
Plaza has already sent five letters to Malacañang to raise this concern, but the pile of backlog still remained high.
“I don’t know what really is the problem as to why it’s getting delayed. We computed the initial investment of this delay. It amounts to P500 billion,” she said.
“If these investors will change their mind, we would be losing this opportunity. Some are already telling me they are looking at Vietnam and transferring there,” she added.
Plaza said that the P500 billion already took into account the value of locators that were supposed to set up shop in the pending economic zones. To recall, she said that the backlog as of July was 46 ecozones, accounting for at least P30 billion worth of investment in ecozone development.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s biggest of business organization, recently urged the government to improve the pace in approving Peza-registered economic zones following concerns raised by stakeholders.
Back in July, Plaza said that buildings meant to house IT-BPM firms made up most of the Peza ecozone applications.
This delay has also been partly blamed by some officials for the current decline in new investments in the IT-BPM industry.
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