FIFTEEN companies operating in economic zones nationwide laid off workers last year, according to state-run Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
In a forum, Lilia de Lima, PEZA director general, said 3,000 workers were retrenched, adding most of these displaced workers were from electronics and semiconductors firms, auto parts makers, and garments manufacturing companies.
Despite the layoffs, shorter workweeks and temporary plant shutdowns, a company operating in any of the country’s economic zones has yet to fold up, de Lima said.
“I don’t expect more layoffs [among companies operating in PEZA. Displacements are expected to be] less this year,” she added.
PEZA acknowledges that electronics, semiconductors and car parts exports would decline this year as orders are low. The electronics and semiconductors sector has accounted for 46.38 percent of all investments registered with PEZA since 1995, while transport and car parts investments cornered 5.8 percent of cumulative PEZA investments, according to the incentives-giving agency’s data.
De Lima said new ecozone investments could compensate for the slowdown in the electronics and semiconductors industry, such as those in the agro-industrial, business process outsourcing, tourism, medical tourism, retirement and shipbuilding sectors.
Investments registered with the agency went up by double digits last year.
De Lima said a total of P154.8-billion worth of investments were approved by the incentives-giving agency last year, up by 15 percent compared with P133.7 billion in 2007.
Investments pledged with PEZA have a realization rate of 98 percent, she said.
The number of approved projects also increased 18.2 percent year-on-year, as 513 investments were approved in 2008, compared with 434 in the previous year.
But due to the downturn, exports from PEZA investments slipped by 0.88 percent last year to $40.527 billion from the previous year’s $40.889 billion.
Employment generated by PEZA projects grew 2.52 percent to 608,057 jobs last year.
PEZA remains bullish amid the global financial crisis, de Lima said, as the investment promotions body targets growth of 10 percent in investments, 5 percent in terms of exports, and 5 percent in employment this year. “And if we’re lucky, it could be better than that,” she said.
“In a crunch, investors would look for countries wherein they could operate with low cost but high productivity. Our ecozones are well-positioned to attract more investments,” she added.
— Ben Arnold O. De Vera, Manila Times