THE PHILIPPINE Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) on Monday said it has asked the Finance and Trade departments to allow information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) companies to implement work-from-home (WFH) operations that are equivalent up to 90% of their total revenues.

This comes after the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) released guidelines allowing registered IT-BPO firms in economic zones to extend WFH arrangements until March 2022, but required them to have at least 10% of their total employees onsite.

In a statement, PEZA said it has asked the FIRB, which is chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, to reinstate the basis of the threshold of the WFH arrangement to gross revenue as a form of support for IT enterprises that have also been affected by the pandemic.

“This is to support their recovery and protect their employees from the risks of contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) in the workplace. The revenue-based computation of the threshold shall afford more protection to the employees and is more in keeping of the intent of the resolution,” the investment promotion agency said.

The statement quoted PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza’s letter to the Finance and Trade departments, wherein she endorsed the IT-BPO firms’ request to maintain the original WFH arrangement approved by PEZA since the start of the pandemic.

Under PEZA’s guidelines approved on March 5, 2020 and extended until Sept. 12, 2021, registered IT enterprises were allowed to engage in WFH operations to the extent of “up to 90% of their total revenues.”

Ms. Plaza said the FIRB’s new directive is a problem for IT-BPO companies because many employees are still not keen on reporting to the office amid the surge in COVID-19 cases around the country.

“While the enterprises are grateful for the extension of the WFH arrangement, the health and safety of their employees is still their primordial consideration,” she said.

“This will defeat the purpose of the extension of the WFH arrangement which is to limit the mobility of workers and lessen the pressure on public transport because they will contribute to the number of people outside even if it is possible for them to perform their jobs within the confines of their respective homes.”

The statement also quoted the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) as saying the clarification on the threshold for WFH arrangement is “a fair treatment considering that any breach that might happen would only be due to compelling circumstances such as putting the health and safety of employees as more paramount.”

IBPAP said the member companies are only following the government’s call to continue implementing WFH arrangements as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“Our members are registered enterprises that aim to maintain their export revenue commitments and keep their people to ensure seamless delivery of services. However, there are factors affecting revenue and employee attrition that are beyond the control of the enterprise,” the organization said.

Outsourcing revenue rose just 1.4% to $26.7 billion last year from the 2019 figure, IBPAP earlier said. The industry employs around 1.3 million workers. — RMDO