By Jenina P. Ibañez

THE Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) is in talks with Metro Manila mayors to find ways to continue building outsourcing centers in the capital despite a national government suspension of economic zone approvals intended to divert the industry to the countryside.

In an interview Monday, IBPAP president and chief executive officer Rey C. Untal said IBPAP and representatives from organizations like the Makati Business Club met with Manila Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso to discuss the possibility of encouraging BPO firms to locate in the city.

“We are pushing for initiatives that are very targeted at the LGU (local government unit) level,” he said.

He said that Mr. Domagoso extended an invitation and offered incentives to the sector to increase its presence in the City of Manila, noting that the city currently only has one or two BPO facilities that are certified by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

“That’s strange considering Manila is where many of the graduates are produced. There’s a lot of universities there — their graduates are working in other cities” he said.

He said that the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is looking at developers’ plans to build townships or mixed-use developments of several hectares of land to be repurposed.

Mr. Untal said the ideal situation would be for BPOs to support the development the areas surrounding the office areas, with entertainment, retail, and food establishments growing as an “ecosystem.”

Last month, Mr. Untal said that he was meeting with Metro Manila mayors to seek ways to mitigate Administrative Order No. 18 from Malacañang, which imposes a moratorium on ecozone approvals to encourage BPOs to set up shop in the provinces.

The industry, which depends on ecozones for incentives that support its business model, has expressed support for the national government’s intent to divert growth in the countryside, but pointed to possible job losses during the transition period.

Mr. Untal has also met with Quezon City Mayor Maria Josefina G. Belmonte to discuss stronger links between academic institutions and the industry.

IBPAP is also working with Muntinlupa City on an upskilling partnership to make BPO jobs available to locals, and is setting up meetings with the cities of Makati and Pasig.

When asked if the industry is looking to expand further outside of Metro Manila, he said its efforts have been “aggressive.”

“The IT-BPM industry I think is one of those industries that has been quite aggressive in growing outside of Metro Manila,” Mr. Untal said, adding that there are almost 300,000 Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) employees in 23 provinces outside of the National Capital Region.