THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said it is hoping to tap current locators to attract new investment via promotion efforts coursed through the various foreign chambers of commerce.

PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza said in a phone interview Thursday that the authority is working on a memorandum of understanding with the foreign chambers, who are being counted on to organize virtual investor forums in their home countries.

Madali nilang ma-contact ‘yung other investors from their countries (It’s easier for them to contact other investors in their home countries) who are not yet here,” she said.

She said she will ask the chambers to help attract potential Japanese locators as well as businesses moving operations from China.

Foreign chambers have said that potential investors are hindered by travel restrictions to help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said that UK investors are still planning to make long-term investments in the Philippines and called for an easing in business travel rules.

Ms. Plaza said that some business travel may be granted exemptions via PEZA.

“(The government) allows us to let foreign investors come in, so si PEZA ang magre-request ng exemption (PEZA will be the one to request exemptions),” she said.

“So ang process ngayon is we have existing foreign investors who are in their countries now who now want to come back. The process is I write DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) seeking an exemption from the prohibition of foreigners. Pwede kaming humingi ng exemption na our existing investor wants to come back to the Philippines and will be bringing their mga fellow investors or company subsidiary nila to come (The current situation is that foreign investors in their home countries want to return to the Philippines, and bringing them back involves vouching for them with the DFA. We hope they also bring more potential investors),” she said.

PEZA approved P22.5 billion worth investment projects in its July board meeting, the majority from new activities registered by current locators.

The investment promotion agency in the first five months of 2020 approved P29.5 billion worth of investment, down 32% year on year. The PEZA board did not meet in June due to the health risks.

Ms. Plaza said PEZA locators are focusing on reducing their import dependence, where possible organizing complete their supply chains within the Philippines, after the lockdowns disrupted their access to imported raw materials.

“It will attract more investors (because) it will lower their cost of production (if materials are) available in the country,” she said. — Jenina P. Ibañez