THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is requesting assistance from the national and local governments in housing and transporting employees during the Luzon lockdown.

In a statement Saturday, PEZA said Director General Charito B. Plaza wrote to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday encouraging the President to both protect public health and support the economy.

Ms. Plaza said that PEZA has been complying with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) requirements, by providing temporary housing and shuttle services for workers.

But she noted that PEZA cannot provide such services to the entire workforce. PEZA’s 406 economic zones directly employ 1.6 million people.

She proposed that public schools and other buildings be used as medical facilities after hospitals with no remaining beds began turning away persons under monitoring or investigation for COVID-19.

Some of these buildings, she said, should house eco-zone workers.

“For economic purposes, some of them may be utilized to temporarily house eco-zone workers who are challenged by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) restrictions on movement of eco-zone personnel,” she said.

“The idle buildings and warehouses, whether public or private, may also serve as logistics facilities particularly for food products to ensure food security.”

Ms. Plaza added that the IATF and local government units should assist companies that need housing, transportation, and personal protective equipment. Ms. Plaza also asked for “safe passage through the checkpoints for eco-zone cargoes and shuttle buses ferrying the workers.”

Under the ECQ declared in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, outsourcing and export-oriented businesses may continue to operate as long as work-from-home measures are in place and a minimal level of in-office staff are given temporary accommodation.

Business groups had earlier expressed concerns about the implementation of national government directives to allow all cargo to pass unhampered through checkpoints. The trade department said last week that it expects the movement of cargo to improve. — Jenina P. Ibañez