Pasay City – Building stronger partnerships for economic growth in the regions, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at PEZA Auditorium, Pasay City, on Tuesday, 31 May 2022, that aims to utilize potential land areas within the DENR’s jurisdiction, particularly in the countryside.
In aggressive efforts to create different types of economic zones according to land potentials in every region, PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza highlighted, “PEZA inked a partnership with DENR to further protect the environment by locating appropriate industries and enhancing the responsible use of land and natural resources.”
“We thank the DENR for sharing with PEZA their vision for the country in attaining total development with the Philippines as an investment destination of Asia and for being our partner to restore the glory when our country was used to be called the ‘Tiger economy of Asia’ during the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.,” Plaza added.
For his part, DENR Secretary Jim O. Sampulna mentioned, “The DENR foresees [this MOU signing] revenue-generating as it will create employment for our fellowmen and attract foreign investments for our country’s economic recovery.”
The PEZA-DENR MOU Signing was also attended by Senator and current Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs Honorable Imee Marcos, partner industry associations of PEZA such as SEIPI President Dr. Danilo Lachica, IBPAP President and CEO Jack Madrid, CONWEP Executive Director Maritess Agoncillo, and PAMURI Director Celeste Ilagan.
Likewise, various foreign chambers also graced the signing such as the Nordic Chamber of the Philippines, the US ASEAN Business Council, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines (JCCI), the US Embassy, and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FCCI).
PEZA-DENR SEZ partnership
Aligned with the goals of Administrative Order (AO) No. 18, the signed MOU aims to pursue the establishment of SEZs in potential areas within the jurisdiction of DENR suitable for development as agro-industrial, agro-forestry, mineral processing ecozones, and the ecotourism special economic zones (SEZs) nationwide.
According to PEZA Chief Plaza, “The MOU will be followed by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for every region where production areas are identified to become or to be converted into different types of economic zones. This is PEZA’s way of fully industrializing yet protecting, not destroying, our environment.”
Senator Imee Marcos also shared the same sentiment expressing, “Today is a very important MOU between PEZA and DENR. We know that landholdings have been a constitutional question for many decades and now, this is one way of finally bringing foreign investments to the countryside, ideally also to agriculture, timberland, our marine resources, and the mining sector.”
It can also be recalled that the Senate recently approved the amendments to investment-related laws to enhance the country’s investment competitiveness and contribute to economic recovery. These amended laws are the Foreign Investment Act (FIA), Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Public Service Act (PSA).
With the signed MOU, the DENR will provide PEZA with an inventory of potential areas under its jurisdiction that are viable for development into Special Economic Zones. For the requirements, manufacturing/mineral processing ecozones require a minimum of 25 hectares of land area while a minimum of 5 hectares are required for agro-industrial, agro-forestry, and eco-tourism ecozones.
Meanwhile, PEZA will lead the conduct of site assessment of potential areas identified by DENR, with the provision of the corresponding budgetary requirement. PEZA will also present and submit to DENR the proposed management and development plans for each potential area to become a SEZ.
CARAGA as pilot area
PEZA and DENR, under the MOU, identified the CARAGA region as the pilot area.
DENR Secretary Sampulna expressed, “We have jointly decided [with PEZA] to pursue the immediate development of proposals for the CARAGA region because of its greatest potential to contribute to the economic development as it is the timber and mining capital of the Philippines.”
Further, DENR Assistant Secretary Michelle Angelica D. Go said, “We are already in the advanced stage of identifying the potential ecozone areas in CARAGA — there are seven (areas) and we are hoping to forge a MOA with PEZA before June 30, 2022.”
On sustainable development
Through science-based strategies, DENR Secretary Sampulna mentioned, “The critical role of the environment and natural resources in the sustainable development of our country and its significant contributions to our economy cannot be overstated.”
“The DENR will not compromise in ensuring that the ecological integrity of the environment is preserved and sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services,” Sampulna added.
Seconded by PEZA Chief Plaza, she said, “Our MOU Signing today and the soon-to-be MOA is also in adherence to our Transformation Road Map (TRM) where we will create environment-friendly, green, sustainable, and smart ecozones and townships where our investor locators can work, live, learn, and play.”
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos expressed, “Sustainable development will have to be part and parcel of every effort. Certainly, the ‘build-build-build’ [project] in the next administration needs to become a 2.0 iteration. It must expand to green, social, health, and school infrastructure that is wired and ready for remote learning.”
Marcos also shared, “It is finally time to facilitate the use of land as a true asset in the improvement of the entire rural community. As the fifth most mineralized country in the world and with the lifting of the mining ban in our country, PEZA should also continue to look at the possibility of establishing mineral processing zones.”
The Economic Affairs chairperson and senator believes that the PEZA-DENR MOU signing is also an Environment Social Governance (ESG) investment.
She stated, “This MOU is ESG indeed and I am certain that all of us will go towards this direction as we are certain that the next administration will [too]. We look forward to your further cooperation and as the SAP or the Super Ate ng Pangulo, ako ay nagpapasalamat po sa inyong lahat, sa inyong tangkilik, at suporta.” (PEZA)