THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said it is studying a major public economic zone (ecozone) within the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

“It is still under study; it is a mega ecozone. If you notice, that is the trend right now in ASEAN. They are able to bring in big-ticket projects or large and high-value projects because they have thousands of hectares to offer to investors,” PEZA Director General Tereso O. Panga told reporters last week.

He said the targeted locators are  manufacturers, particularly car and electric vehicle companies.

“We are talking with the Bureau of Corrections for the 26,000 hectares of land. I think car manufacturing and electric vehicles would be ideal in this area,” he said.

“We want this ecozone to be self-sustaining, so that all their power and water needs will all be developed within that area. That’s the idea.  It will use renewable energy and be sustainable,” he added.

Mr. Panga said talks are entering their final stages with the Bureau of Corrections, which will result in the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) for the use of the property.

“We will start with due diligence; within a month or so the MoA might be signed,” he said.

He said that the study will determine how much PEZA will spend on development, as well as how the development will be phased.

“There are a lot of modalities; we can always offer land as our equity. …we (may) not really have to spend that much,” he added.

He said that a similar scheme was used in some of the PEZA ecozones like Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

“Although we did not put in money to develop it, the locators offered to develop at their expense,” he added.

Asked why PEZA wants to develop a public ecozone he said: “There are no more large areas of land — big enough to accommodate big-ticket projects — in the Philippines that are privately owned.”

“We want to develop the whole supply chain… If there’s anything we want to highlight, we want to see… an area where the ecosystem can be developed to facilitate the whole supply chain of manufacturing,” he said.

There are four public ecozones, in Cebu, Baguio, Cavite and Pampanga

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said that the initiative will help stimulate economic growth and development.

“The area will primarily be attractive for tourism, so investments by both local and foreign investors would be another source of economic and other business activities which will also creating more jobs or livelihood,” Mr. Ricafort said.

He said that the creation of jobs and businesses in the area will help maximize the potential of Palawan.

“This will also help the area to become more self-sufficient by producing more rather than importing from other areas around the country via ship, being a separate group of islands relatively far from mainland Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” he added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile