PEZA eyes new ecozones in Bicol to complement Luzon Economic Corridor

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  • The Philippine Economic Zone Authority is looking at opening new ecozones southward to the Bicol region to complement the Luzon Economic Corridor
  • PEZA director general Tereso Panga said current public works projects will make the Bicol Region accessible to international trade

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is looking at opening new ecozones southward to the Bicol region to complement the Luzon Economic Corridor, according to PEZA director general Tereso Panga.

PEZA noted the current projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways—Toll Road 4 and Toll Road 5, plus the Asian Development Bank-funded Philippine National Railways South-Long Haul Railway project—will make the Bicol Region accessible to international trade.

Bicol already has airports at strategic locations that will complement these upcoming infrastructure trade highways. The “only major component lacking are international seaports on the Eastern seaboard of the Philippines,” Panga said in a statement.

Looking at the next four years, Panga said “opening up new seaports like Pantao, for one, in the Eastern Seaboard will de-risk trade as well as shorten transport of goods to Taiwan, Korea, the US, Japan, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other destinations in the Pacific.”

“It will create new growth areas that will uplift the lives of millions in the region and have an economic impact on Southeastern Visayas as well!” he added.

The governments of the Philippines, United States, and Japan last April announced their intent to develop the Luzon Economic Corridor to support connectivity between Subic Bay, Clark, Manila, and Batangas in the Philippines. Under the project, the three countries will accelerate coordinated investments in high-impact infrastructure projects, including rail; ports modernization; clean energy and semiconductor supply chains and deployments; and agribusiness to further connect and drive economic growth in each hub.

On the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Business forum in May, Panga said the agency fully supports the Corridor, which he said will strengthen seamless interconnectivity between Central Luzon and the CALABARZON Region.

He noted that majority of PEZA-registered ecozones are largely within this corridor. “In fact, there are a total of 137 ecozones operating in Metro Manila, Clark, and Batangas, housing about 1,600 manufacturing, service, and export-oriented companies. As such, we look forward to the infrastructure projects that will strengthen the connections between these industrial export hubs,” Panga said.

Based on PEZA data, the developers and locators of ecozones accounted for 56.91% of the total commodity exports of the Philippines in 2023, largely contributing to the creation of jobs in the provinces of Cavite, Tarlac, Batangas, Pampanga, Laguna. PEZA noted these areas have grown and developed significantly throughout the years due to the presence of the economic zones.

Panga said the projects to be implemented under the Luzon Economic Corridor will enhance the practice of ease of doing business and increase outputs of companies located within economic zones in the area.

“We are positive that this will de-clog and decongest logistical pinch points in Luzon, which serves as a major challenge to our locator companies and even to potential investors,” Panga said.

“It will lead to a seamless flow of products and materials from and into the zones and will also enhance the country’s attractiveness as an investment destination,” he added.

Together with the Bureau of Corrections, PEZA said it is going through the preliminary stages of planning and development for the first mega economic zone in Palawan. The project is seen to rejuvenate the Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) partnership that will focus on the Greater Sulu-Sulawesi Corridor, among others.

Panga said: “We cannot pass up on these rare opportunities from China+1 Strategy, US CHIPS Act, and US-JAPAN-Philippines trilateral agreement anchored on the Luzon Economic Corridor which Trade Secretary and PEZA Board Chairman Alfredo Pascual has been ardently pursuing. We can leverage on ally-shoring and offshore-outsourcing to attract more investments particularly from US and Japan, and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s bid to position the Philippines as a regional hub for smart and sustainable manufacturing, innovation, creativity, and sustainability.

“From within our own domain and sphere of influence, we can pursue these strategies to address the challenges in the supply chain, industrial and logistics sectors and in the process attract more industrial investments particularly in the ecozones.”