I just finished my 42nd coffee-table book in 23 years — Philippine Economic Zones: An Investment Haven in Asia. (1995-2020.)
It is a riveting story that captures Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (PEZA) journey of the last 25 years. It highlights the Filipino workforce’s talent, grit, resilience, sense of humor, ingenuity, bayanihan spirit, hope and faith that keeps the organization steadfast in its mission to provide jobs and opportunities for a better life for every Filipino.
Why is PEZA a success story? Because this organization minds its own business. The leadership of Director General Charito Plaza and her three deputies: DDG Tereso Panga, JP Yusingco and recently retired Mary Harriet Abordo, tells of a pioneering spirit that shows us a legacy of innovation, greatness and excellence that challenges the Filipino spirit with pride and dedication.
Why is PEZA a success story, we ask again? Because of the dedicated service that the organization extends to the economic zone developers, the locator companies totalling 4,643 and their industry partners numbering over 300 who have become not only strategic partners but friends through all these 25 years.
DDG Harriet Abordo, who was among the
longest-tenured executives that experienced the transition from EPZA to PEZA, remarked, “I have seen empty tracts of land transformed into PEZA special economic zones that have become burgeoning centers of export manufacturing enterprises humming day and night with their 24/7 operations.”
Its policy of registration of buildings as IT centers and export-oriented IT enterprises in late 1999 gave rise to the country’s sunshine industry generating employment for close to a million Filipinos.
DDG Tereso Panga shared, “Part of PEZA’s history and legacy, which started in 1969, continues to be an effective platform for development which enhances the country’s human capital and natural resources through the export industry.”
He believes that RA 7916 or the law that created PEZA in 1995 is one of the finest pieces of legislation passed by the Philippine Congress with the present director general as one of the bill’s principal authors in the Lower House.
PEZA manages a globally competitive and sustainable environment for investments and industries as exporters of goods and services to the global market. As an investment promotion agency, it oversees and administers incentives to economic zone developers and locators in world class, environmentally friendly, secure and competitively priced Special Economic Zones that host export industries that are into manufacturing, processing, assembly ITBPO, tourism, medical tourism, agro- industry, mining, refinery and aqua marine resources.
As one of the fastest growing economies in the Asean region with an average GDP growth of six percent, the Philippines is rich in both natural and human resources. We have fertile soil, wet and dry seasons which allow planting the whole year. Our edge is a young, vibrant population who are intelligent, willing to learn and English-proficient. These workers keep the ecozones safe, secure, green, smart and globally competitive.
DDG JP Yusingco adds, “We continue to improve compensation and benefits of our employees subject to our mandate and our contributions to the national government are stable and sustainable.”
Director General Plaza shares that PEZA continues to innovate as AI and automation technology now happening will create job displacements. But PEZA is now focusing on the strength of the workforce in critical thinking, teamwork, interpersonal skills, leadership and creativity.
PEZA has learned many lessons during this pandemic that resulted in work from home, online payment system, transition to digital infrastructure while maintaining the completion of the supply chain and global value chain. They have also strengthened regionalization, devolution of ecozone development functions while focusing on policy development, marketing strategies and incentive administration thereby enhancing synergy of both ecozones and LGUs, including forward and backward linkages.
My faith in the Filipino has been strengthened by the lessons I learned from writing this milestone book. Yes, by minding their own business, PEZA shows us the way and the future is an exciting arena for our country to be.