PHILSTAR

THE FISCAL Incentives Review Board (FIRB) should consider extending the hybrid work-from-home (WFH) arrangement for Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) firms following the surge in fuel prices, according to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said in a statement on Monday that a hybrid WFH work arrangement should be implemented due to the continued surge in fuel prices, which makes transportation more expensive for workers. 

“We need to consider that we are not only dealing with the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but also the domino effect of the ongoing war in Ukraine and Russia on the global market. The least we can do is help bring back our thriving economy, but not at the expense of our investors who help keep protect our economy afloat,” Ms. Plaza said. 

According to PEZA, a hybrid work arrangement is a method where employers and employees agree on “a percentage of WFH and those physically reporting to office depending on the position or functions of the employee.”

During a Feb. 21 meeting, the FIRB rejected PEZA’s proposal to extend WFH arrangements for registered IT-BPOs until Sept. 12 without the required on-site capacity and without the risk of losing incentives. The FIRB said employees should return to on-site work due to the country’s increasing vaccination rate and to help economic recovery.

Under FIRB Resolution 19-21, IT-BPOs located in economic zones are allowed to conduct a WFH arrangement of up to 90% of its total workforce until the end of March while still enjoying tax incentives. 

Meanwhile, Ms. Plaza said PEZA is coordinating with the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) to push for FIRB’s consideration of a hybrid work scheme, with three schedules proposed to adopt the ratio of a 60% WFH: 40% on-site; 40% WFH: 60% on-site; or 50% WFH-50% on-site staggered implementations.

“PEZA and IBPAP are doing their best effort to have the FIRB consider immediately the hybrid work scheme … and let the new administration determine the appropriate work scheme considering the suggestion,” Ms. Plaza said.

Ms. Plaza said PEZA also supports the proposal of IBPAP for IT-BPO firms to adopt a WFH arrangement from April 1 until the end of December this year.

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet despite the implementation of Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila, which is the lowest restriction in the alert level system.

“IT-BPOs invested during the pandemic for the equipment and enabling their workers to do WFH in a way that going back to 100% on-site should not be a sudden and immediate move; and adopting WFH also has benefits for decongesting traffic,” Ms. Plaza said.

“We are constantly in talks with IBPAP to still look into ways to include WFH or a hybrid work model in the IT-BPO sector’s operation in the Philippines. We should learn from the likes of India, one of our top competitors for IT-BPOs, wherein they are adjusting its policies and tax breaks to adopt hybrid work arrangement,” she added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave