By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

AN ISRAELI-FILIPINO firm plans to manufacture coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) oral vaccines in the Philippines, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said.

The PEZA board is set to approve the pharmaceutical firm’s application to manufacture the vaccines in one of its economic zones, PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza told ABS-CBN on Wednesday.

“It’s really a big investment because they are considering to make the Philippines the manufacturing hub of these oral COVID(-19) vaccines and other related medicines. They will make this the hub of the Asia and Pacific region, and even the whole world,” she said.

Ms. Plaza in a mobile message on Thursday said that she will share details about the firm, the size of the investment, and the production timeline after the PEZA board’s March 12 meeting.

The firm is 50% Israeli and 50% Filipino owned, she said.

“They ask(ed) to give the details once PEZA board approves their application,” Ms. Plaza said.

“Next week we are expecting the scientists, the very inventors, who will come to the Philippines,” she added.

PEZA said that it aims to reach over P100 billion in investment pledges this year, higher than last year’s P95 billion. Last year’s investments fell almost 20% from the P117.54 billion recorded in 2019.

PEZA approved P11.308 billion in investment pledges in January 2021, or 139% higher than the P4.726 billion in the same month last year.

Amid the alert over the Taal Volcano in Batangas, Ms. Plaza said that PEZA is considering new locations for economic zones. Lima Technology Center and the First Philippine Industrial Park are both in Batangas, but are farther than a 20-kilometer radius from the volcano.

“We are now identifying potential economic zones which will be farther away from danger zones. We’re ready for that,” she said. “For new applications for ecozone development we really require them to get a certification from… disaster agencies so that we will be assured that they will be located far away from the danger zones.”

Operators of existing economic zones, she added, are being asked to prepare for potential transfer later on, noting that the agency is considering Quezon Province, Laguna, and Cavite.

State seismologists on Tuesday raised the alert status of Taal Volcano to level 2 due to “increasing unrest.”