THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) approved at its board meeting last week P22.5 billion of investments covering 50 projects that are expected to create almost 9,000 jobs.

Of the total approved on July 10, 33 are projects of existing locator companies worth P13.8 billion that will create 7,116 jobs, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The rest are new projects, including 10 economic zone proposals and seven ecozone facility enterprise projects. Together, these are valued at P8.7 billion and are expected to generate 1,801 jobs, PEZA said.

Luzon attracted the most investments with 40 new ones, while six are in the Visayas and four are in Mindanao, the agency said. By region, Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) attracted the most investments with 26 projects.

Broken down by nationality, 44.15% were investments from Filipinos, while 55.85% were from foreigners.

Export enterprises made up 16 of the new projects, followed by information technology companies with 15, facilities with seven and logistics with two.

Combined with its year-to-date total in May, PEZA has approved P52 billion of investments this year covering 163 projects.

The agency approved P29.5 billion in investments in the five months through May, or 32% less than the same period last year after delayed meetings amid a lockdown on the main Philippine island of Luzon — one of the longest and strictest in the world — meant to contain a coronavirus pandemic.

The PEZA board did not meet in June due to health risks at its offices.

In 2019, PEZA posted a 16% decline in investment pledges to P117.54 billion after domestic and foreign investors faced tax reform uncertainties.

“The approval of new projects and investments is the agency’s positive action to continuously support the Philippine economy in our endeavor to maintain our competitiveness for investments despite the impact of COVID-19,” PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza said in the statement.

“COVID-19 cannot stop PEZA in performing its mandate to register, manage and operate public and private economic zones in the country,” she said. “PEZA continues to attract investors to come and invest in the Philippines despite the crisis.”

Ms. Plaza on July 6 told a news conference she was optimistic about investments for the rest of the year as the agency rolls out virtual investor forums, but noted that foreign investors see shortcomings in the Philippines’ cost of doing business and poor information technology infrastructure.

She earlier expressed worry that some export companies may shut Philippine operations and consolidate their resources in other countries amid economic downturns caused by the pandemic.

The Board of Investments (BoI), which accounts for the bulk of planned projects registered with investment promotion agencies, approved P645.3 billion in investments in the first half, mostly accounted for by a P530.8-billion airport project from San Miguel Aerocity, Inc.

Domestic investments under BoI jumped almost three times to P626.7 billion in the first half from a year earlier. In contrast, foreign investments plummeted by almost three-quarters to P18.6 billion. — Jenina P. Ibañez