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10-month PEZA investments fall amid pandemic

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Investments in the country’s economic zones fell by more than a quarter to P72.6 billion in the 10 months through October amid a coronavirus pandemic, according to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

The number of projects dropped by 45% to 248, PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza told an online meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. on Friday.

Direct employment in economic zones also fell by 2.4% to 1.53 million jobs from January to September from a year earlier, she said. PEZA posted a 0.63% improvement in the value of exports to $40.8 billion, she added.

“Despite the pandemic, PEZA continuously receives [reports of] expansions and new investments,” Ms. Plaza said, noting that the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing sector continued to “contribute the biggest export income.”

Semiconductors and electronics in PEZA ecozones posted an 8.23% decline in exports to $16.71 in the first nine months.

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Ms. Plaza traced the decline to difficulties in importing raw materials amid a coronavirus pandemic. She said almost half of the sector’s raw materials and supplies are imported.

The sector’s direct employment fell by 3.18% to 371,138 jobs during the period from a year earlier.

Investment in the sector from January to October dropped by a quarter to P8.86 billion, Ms. Plaza said.

Still, she said export companies have survived during the pandemic. “While domestic enterprises are on lockdown, our export companies are the ones maintaining the economy.”

As of Oct. 10, 87% or 2,629 companies in economic zones nationwide were operating, Ms. Plaza said, adding that these employ about 1.2 million Filipinos. She said only 13% or 387 companies were not operating or had no production.

Ms. Plaza said the agency had suspended the 30% limit on yearly revenue that locators can generate outside IT parks given the work-from-home arrangements during the health crisis.

The limit was increased to 90% and will be effective until Sept. 12 next year, she added. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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