ECONOMIC ZONES are currently underutilized and must be planned with more of an eye towards their long-term attractiveness to locators, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

“So many are underutilized; the scope for improvement is vast. The point is that there is a good basis for the development of the zones but we need to make sure we have the resources to make it a viable destination for investors,” Mr. Balisacan told the House committee on economic affairs on Monday.

He called on other agencies to take up a “whole-of-government approach” in ensuring a healthy industry consisting of “effective and cost-efficient zones,” without leaving their development solely to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

“We have received a lot of bills on the creation of zones in many areas, and our usual response is we (need) more details on such proposals, so that we can ensure the resources of the Republic are used most efficiently. We have many of those zones around the country; what might be needed is to consolidate all possible assistance so (they become) more attractive to investors,” he added.

Earlier this month, PEZA announced a proposal to create 13 ecozones, which are expected to generate nearly P18 billion worth of investment.

Separately, Mr. Balisacan said that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2023 to 2027 will be presented to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. next week.

He said that this PDP focuses on digitalization and connectivity.

“The digital transformation of the government will result in a faster and more efficient delivery (of services) to the people. It can also help the government build better data systems (to improve the targeting of) social protections,” he said.

“Digitalization is a high priority of this administration; we must push for this. It’s the way of the future. The pandemic has shifted all economies in the world to that level, so we must not be left out. We must make sure our people, firms can compete with the global marketplace,” he added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson