THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said it approved P13.1 billion worth of committed investments for the months of April and May, which are expected to generate nearly 20,000 new jobs.

In a statement, the investment promotion agency said it approved 26 new projects on May 21, its first meeting since the Luzon-wide lockdown began in mid-March.

The projects are estimated to employ 19,894 workers. PEZA said 68.5% of investors are foreign, including American, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese.

This brought PEZA-approved investments to a total of P29.6 billion for 113 projects in the first five months of 2020. The agency did not give comparative figures.

PEZA’s approved investments in the first quarter slumped 28% to P16.5 billion from P22.9 billion in the same period last year after its board failed to meet during the lockdown.

The number of approved projects in the first quarter fell by 32% to 87 from 128 a year ago.

“Being the top investment promotion agency in the country that contributes to export income, employment and investment for the Filipino nation, PEZA is glad to share positive news amidst the pandemic,” PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza said.

“The approval of new investments or projects is the agency’s positive action to support the Philippine economy in our endeavor to maintain our competitiveness for investments despite the impact of COVID.”

PEZA oversees 408 economic zones with 4542 locator companies employing 1.6 million workers.

Among PEZA-registered companies, 1,701 or 64.58% are operating as of May 25. They are operating at full, minimized, and work-from-home capacities. The rest have suspended operations.

Ms. Plaza said that the Philippines should be able to continue to attract new and expanded investments.

“This can be done by enhancing PEZA’s internationally renowned one-stop-shop, tried and tested tax incentives, ease of doing business, quality human resource and natural resources, despite the underdeveloped factors the country have in terms of infrastructure, logistics facilities, and supply chain.”

PEZA continues to support the “status quo” on tax incentives even amid new proposals to immediately cut corporate income tax and lengthen the sunset period for existing fiscal incentives.

Ms. Plaza has said that she’ll “leave it to the senators (because) they’re the ones who will vote.” — Jenina P. Ibañez