Most export companies inside the Mactan Export Zone (Mez) are not doing as badly as projected in the global economic crisis.
Close to 500 employees in six companies inside Mez 1 lost their jobs, according to a recent survey by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza).
But the loss of jobs is partly offset by 191 workers who were hired by 31 companies inside the economic zone. Two firms are also hiring about 200 workers.
As of March 15, none of the 105 companies inside Mez 1 closed down although there was a slowdown in production, said zone administrator Sansaluna Pinagayao of Peza.
Surprisingly, garment export firms are doing well, although electronics, semi-conductor and automotives sectors suffered a 30 percent decline in shipments in the first quarter.
Most of the companies that laid off 483 workers are Japanese-owned firms. These are Cebu World J Creations with 18 laid off workers, Fairchild Semiconductor Philippines Inc., 254; Mactan Parts Technology, 37; Halsangz Plating Cebu, 46;, Exas Philippines Inc., 82; and Tokiwa Optical Philippines Corp., 46.
But 18 companies were also hiring a total of 219 workers, said Pinagayao.
These jobs include information system engineers, merchandisers, sewers, sample makers, production operators and maintenance technicians among others.
“On top of this, Pentax (Cebu Philippines Corp.), the maker of camera models, just told me they are hiring 200 more production workers,” he told yesterday.
Peza has conducted a survey every 15 days since February to check which of its locators are affected by the global economic crisis.
So far, no company has shut down although some have slowed down operations, said Pinagayao.
At least 83 percent of Mez 1 companies are engaged in export and export-related services while 15 percent provide logistics services. The rest are involved in information technology and utilities.
Of the 105 companies, 68 have been hit by the global financial crisis.
The remaining 38 companies, mostly from the garment sector, are not affected, according to the survey.
How are the 68 other firms coping the with economic slump?
Six firms retrenched workers while 20 had temporary suspension of operations.
At least 42 companies resorted to temporary work adjustments. They compressed work operations from six days to three or four days , and declared a vacation from one week to a maximum of three months.
“Those who were retrenched are the subcontractors, not regular employees of the company, but whose contracts were not renewed (due to low orders from foreign buyers such as United States and Japan),” said Pinagayao.
Garment sector firms didn’t suffer much.
“Surprisingly, they are doing well. The markets of these companies are United States and Europe.”
Companies badly hit by the crisis are those engaged in electronics and semi-conductor and automotives sectors. They experienced a 30 percent to 40 percent slowdown in shipments in the first quarter of 2009.
These include automotive parts manufacturer, Lear Automotive Services (Netherlands) B.V. who retrenched 250 regular employees early this quarter.
Mez I has 105 export-manufacturing firms with 43,389 regular workers while Mez II has 49 campanies with 15,000 regular workers.
Pinagayao dispelled rumors that watch company, TMX Philippines Inc., and business process outsourcing firm, Western Wats, are closing down.
“These companies are doing well. (TMX) produces affordable and durable watches so there is no problem. I heard that Western Wats is is even expanding in Davao,” he said.
While there is a general slowdown across all special economic zones in Cebu province, he said companies are coping well with the crisis.
In Balamban, western Cebu, shipbuilding company, Tsuneihi Heavy Industries (Cebu), Inc, is hiring 3,000 more workers within the year, said Pinagayao. The firm is located inlocated inside the West Cebu Industrial Park.
The company applied for expansion late last year and will be investing about P12 billion for this project.
Pinagayao said Peza is working closely with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and the Department of Labor (Dole) to assist displaced workers.
The Peza One Stop Workers’ Assistance Center (POSWAC) was put up last March 3.
In a summary report, Peza said the center assisted a total of 946 workers. Most of them were assessed by the Tesda Regional Office for profiling and skills training, so displaced workers can be later hired in different jobs.
On the other hand, inquiries from foreign investors to put up eco-tourism infrastructure in Mactan Island has also increased, said Pinagayao.
Cebu’s twin thrusts, tourism and information and communication technology (ICT), are considered recession-proof industries that continue to earn well.
He said an Australian investor is interested to put up a “prestige hotel” in Mactan Island.
A prestige property is considered an “ultra high-end investment” designed to attract the world’s richest and affluent people, who have more money to spend on luxury travel and accommodations.
“We are getting these types of investors interested to engage in eco-tourism projects and business process outsourcing,” he told reporters during the appreciation party last Tuesday hosted by the Cebu City government at the Casino Español.
Pinagayao was one of more than 30 guests, including representatives of companies in economic zones in Mactan, invited by Mayor Tomas Osmeña for the party.
“We are very focused in trying to help those who are trying to help our country and Cebu in general,” said Osmeña even if their businesses are not in Cebu City.
He told investors to contact Joel Mari Yu, managing director of the Cebu Investment Promotions Center, if they encounter any problems.
“You let us know even if it does not involve the city government. It might involve Customs.. we are here and we will try to help you,” Osmeña said.
Yu said the appreciation party recognzied the fact that revenues generated from these companies are spent in Cebu City.–Cris Evert Lato, Cebu Daily News