THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said it plans to develop a skills training and research institute in partnership with its first university special economic zone (SEZ).

PEZA on Monday launched its first Knowledge, Innovation, Science and Technology (KIST) Park at Batangas State University (BSU). KIST Parks are special economic zones using idle land at state universities and colleges for potential locators to lease.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte designated the BSU location a PEZA-registered special economic zone on May 22.

“Being a KIST Park will now enable Batangas State to partner with foreign schools to bring their programs so we can create a more skilled Filipinos as we embark on transforming our workforce to become multi-skilled, multi-knowledge, and world class,” PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza said in a statement Tuesday.

PEZA, the university, and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) have also signed a memorandum of agreement to develop a special economic zone institute.

“The SEZ Institute aims to provide skills training, research, etc. based on the type of industry identified in the region and be partner with SUCs with competence to transform every Filipino worker into multi-skilled, world class rich human capital, addressing one of the efficiency factors investors are looking for,” Ms. Plaza said.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expects the special economic zone to boost industry.

“Ang KIST Park ay siguradong makakatulong sa pagbunsod ng kapasidad at kakayahan ng BSU na magsagawa ng mga pananaliksik para matugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng industriya pati na rin ang pag-incubate ng mga startup enterprises upang matugunan ang demand ng merkado. (KIST Park would surely help BSU improve its capacity for research to address the needs of industry and to incubate startup enterprises to respond to the needs of the market)” he said.

Ms. Plaza expects overall investments in 2020 to decline. The investment promotion agency approved P22.5 billion in investment projects in its July 10 board meeting, the majority of which are new activities from current locators.

These include 10 economic zone proposals and seven ecozone facility enterprise projects.

There are 63 applications for the proclamation of new economic zones at the Office of the President. — Jenina P. Ibañez