THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said it hopes to provide jobs for repatriated Filipino workers at ecozones in the countryside while tapping more domestic suppliers to minimize disruptions in the supply chain for imported materials.

PEZA will soon launch its Development Outreach for Labor, Livelihood, and Advancement of Resources program to help identify job opportunities at its locator companies in economic zones outside of Metro Manila, the investment promotion agency said in a statement Monday.

PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza in a mobile message Tuesday said that the program is still in the planning stages, with discussions ongoing with companies about their manpower and skills requirements.

She said the program will weigh the needs and resources of each region to encourage greater use of local suppliers.

“This program will encourage the growth of domestic enterprises that will produce the importation needs of export enterprises so that the supply chain is completed and jobs are provided as well,” she said.

“In other words, domestic markets will align their production to the products usually imported by export-producing companies in the Philippines. Through this, exporters will increase local purchases and spur the local economy.”

Ms. Plaza said that some companies were not able to operate during the lockdown due to the disruption of imports.

“This must be a challenge for domestic enterprises to become production and export driven rather than import and consumption dependent.”

Ms. Plaza said returning Filipino workers will need to be trained further to match their skills with the needs of local industries.

More than 27,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been repatriated due to the pandemic, with 42,000 more arriving or set to arrive this month.

PEZA plans to work with local governments, public economic zones, locators, and industry associations to identify job opportunities.

By May 25, 65% PEZA-registered companies were operating at different capacities while the rest had suspended operations. The companies employ 1.6 million workers.

The government relaxed the lockdowns in the first week of June, with some areas allowing all industries to operate with at least 50% capacity.

Ms. Plaza said the companies have placed 58% of their workforce on work-from-home or minimal in-office operations. — Jenina P. Ibañez