THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) reported a 13.7% decline in approved investments in the first 10 months of 2021, reflecting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on investor sentiment.

In a statement, PEZA said it approved 215 projects worth P62.72 billion in the January to October period, lower than the P72.64-billion worth of projects during the same period in 2020.

PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said the drop in investments was more pronounced this year compared with 2020 amid the prolonged coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The decline in investment pledges and projects in PEZA was felt more in 2021. This is because when the first quarantines began in Philippines in March 2020, there were pending applications for investments and projects that were approved. Thus, 2020 performance didn’t immediately decrease,” she said.

In 2020, the investment promotion agency registered P95.03 billion in pledges, falling by 19.15% from the P117.54 recorded in 2019.

“Due to the strict lockdowns implemented last year, the approval of projects filed in early 2020 were delayed until mid to late last year. Business groups, entrepreneurs, and exporters were on a wait-and-see mode and had lower risk appetite in their investments during the pandemic. Hence, the impact of the pandemic was really felt this year,” Ms. Plaza said.

According to PEZA, most of the investments will be for ecozone development with P28.75 billion, and the manufacturing sector with P24.13 billion. The projects will be located in Regions IV, VII and the National Capital Region.

“We will constantly perform our best to attract investors to the country. We still have two months left this year, and there’s still a lot to happen. Let’s continue to have a positive outlook as we unite in reviving our economy,” Ms. Plaza said.

Meanwhile, PEZA said its actual employment for the January to August period increased by 11.1% to 1.69 million, while export income climbed by 17.4% to $40.69 billion.

“PEZA continues to contribute 65% of export income on commodities and goods, and export service income of 85% from information technology-business process outsourcing (ITBPO) and tourism-oriented companies registered with PEZA,” Ms. Plaza said.

As of September, 90% of PEZA-registered companies are operating across the country under different work arrangements, an increase of 3% compared with 87% reported in the same period last year. — R.M.D. Ochave