A man works at an assembly plant in Valenzuela City, Oct. 5, 2017. — REUTERS/DONDI TAWATAO

THE PHILIPPINE Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) reported a 54% increase in approved investments in the first quarter from a year earlier, putting it on track to hit its full-year growth target.

The investment promotion agency on Wednesday said it approved P12.54 billion worth of investments in January to March from P8.14 billion in the same period last year.

These investments consist of 42 new and expansion projects of economic zone (ecozone) locators and developers, 45% higher than the 29 projects greenlit by the PEZA in the first quarter of 2022.

Of the 42 projects, the PEZA said about P8.19 billion came from 40 locator projects, while the remaining P4.35 billion came from two developer projects. The projects are expected to produce $616.59 million worth of exports and generate 5,236 direct jobs.   

“This surge in investments that gained more than 50% compared with January to March 2022 is an indication that we are on the right track in achieving our 10% target this year,” PEZA Director-General Tereso O. Panga said in a statement.

For March alone, the PEZA Board gave the go signal for 12 new and expansion projects that are projected to generate P2.34 billion worth of investments.   

“We have achieved positive investments for this year’s first quarter and we can sustain this momentum in the coming months as we expect more inbound delegations of foreign investors,” Mr. Panga said.

He said the PEZA has seen new investment leads across emerging technologies and sectors from new ecozone locator applicants and investor delegations.   

These include possible investments in the vaccine and life science sector, new electric vehicle battery technology, motorcycle manufacturing, integrated circuit packaging and testing services, regenerative agriculture and organic fertilizers and pesticides.

Other sectors with recent investment leads are related to healthcare, deep learning, financial technology and other frontier technologies, anaerobic waste water treatment and liquefied natural gas facilities.   

“These emerging technologies will complement the steady flow of investments in semiconductor electronics manufacturing and IT services, which are the leading sectors in PEZA,” Mr. Panga said.

The PEZA chief said the agency has been working to ensure the investment leads from President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s recent state and working visits to other countries become actual investments.

“Guided by the Department of Trade and Industry’s science, technology, and innovation-driven industrialization strategy, we also aim to create more ecozones and smart townships in rural and new growth areas to accelerate countryside development,” he said.   

Mr. Panga was appointed PEZA chief on March 23. He had served as the PEZA’s officer-in-charge since July last year after the change in administration.

Last year, the PEZA Board greenlit P140.7 billion worth of investments, more than double the P69.3 billion approved in 2021. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave