Recent studies have placed the Philippines in the top 10 best countries to invest in post-COVID, describing the country as the technology hub of Asia. As a government agency mandated to promote investment, create jobs and generate exports, it is the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, more commonly known as PEZA, that is responsible for much of this growth.

The agency was founded in 1995 to provide assistance to localization companies in areas such as construction and import and export permits, visas, certifications and relevant government exemptions. “In addition, PEZA has policies favorable to foreign investors that guarantee fundamental rights of investors, such as the right to pay profits, the right to pay foreign bonds, the right to repatriate investments and 100% foreign ownership. companies ”, explains the director. General Charito B Square. “The agency is recognized as both a one-stop-shop and non-stop that offers world-class assistance to facilitate doing business in the country.”

Charito, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as head of PEZA in September 2016, is one of the country’s leading political figures and a dedicated public servant. Hers is a famous career that began in 1986 when she entered the Philippine House of Representatives as the youngest congressman in history.

After 12 years in Congress – and having co-authored the Republic Act 7916, also known as the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, which enabled the creation of PEZA – she served as a consultant to the Home Office and of the Local Government, as well as the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Transportation. She is also a commissioned officer in the Reserve Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with the rank of Brigadier General. She was both the youngest lieutenant colonel and the youngest colonel in the AFP Reserve Force.

“As CEO of PEZA, I initiated major reforms, notably by revolutionizing the agency to meet the dynamic demands of the business environment and to support President Duterte’s economic agenda,” she said.

Since the beginning of his tenure, Charito’s main objective has been to establish more economic zones in the Philippines, “thus transforming unused land into potential development areas based on the natural resources and raw materials of each region and the human capital of the country, ”she shares. These economic zones, she continues, will be engines of economic growth, a vector for the development of rural areas through the creation of viable and environmentally friendly ecozones in the countryside.

“PEZA is also in active coordination with the private sectors holding large tracts of land to develop similar joint ventures,” she adds. By actively engaging various stakeholders, including local government units, national government agencies, and private and civilian groups, the organization positions the country as an investment hub in Asia.

This is a crucial role, as competition for investments and jobs is fierce among neighboring ASEAN countries, as well as China. “The Philippines may be a pioneer country for free ports and export processing zones, but we are not the only player in the game,” says Charito. “Other countries also offer a competitive investment environment. While we are recognized for the excellence of our brand and as a paperless one-stop-shop, we must continue to raise the bar.

“Leaders make the impossible possible to effect positive change. “

Even amid the volatile investment environment, much of which was sparked by COVID-19, Charito believes the country is “a place full of opportunity for investors moving into the supply chain. world import and export of goods and services “. “The Philippines has different types of ecozones with the land potential and natural resources to be able to locate and attract different types of investors in the Philippines and around the world,” she suggests. IT hubs, island towns, eco-industrial renewable energy parks, and even halal hubs, are some of the areas in which PEZA is active.

Charito points out some of the benefits of investing in the country. “The Philippines is in a strategic location with vast land for various types of economic zones and activities,” she says. “We are also endowed with rich human resources, with a highly literate English-speaking Filipino workforce. We also guarantee the fundamental rights of our investors.

In terms of incentives, she points out that investors registering with PEZA can benefit from four to seven years of tax exemption for industries whose activities are classified as critical, based on the Strategic Plan of Investment Priorities. , in addition to a special five percent business income. tax rate or reduced deductions for 10 years. Investors can also benefit from zero value-added tax on all local purchases directly related to their business, as well as the duty-free importation of capital goods and raw materials. “PEZA also grants a special two-year visa to foreign investors and immediate family members. Foreign companies can have local partners under the 60-40 ownership agreement, which allows the partnership to purchase land partnerships, ”she adds.

The pandemic may have brought huge challenges, but it hasn’t stopped PEZA from continuing to promote investment, create jobs and generate exports. In addition to internal measures that included financial assistance to employees, it offered assistance and reprieve to registered companies and allowed location companies to pivot their production lines towards the production of personal protective equipment for the domestic market.

Charito is proud of the way the agency overcame the obstacles. “Foreign PEZA companies in the ecozones have made efforts to continue operating in order to meet global supply and demand and to retain jobs,” she explains. “Not only have they protected the jobs of millions of Filipino workers, they’ve also kept the Philippine economy afloat.”

As she looks to the next 12-18 months, Charito reveals that she is now focusing on investing in digital infrastructure to enable PEZA to automate its processes. “This will provide an ease of doing business that will dramatically improve office efficiency and productivity for the benefit of locators and the transacting public,” she says. “In the new normal, PEZA has become more active in promoting virtual investments and dialogue with investors to be able to attract more investments to the country.”

Then there is his legacy project, the recently adopted PEZA transformation roadmap with the world view of “Think Global, Act Local”. “As approved by the PEZA Board of Directors, the roadmap serves as a 25-year guideline for PEZA to unleash the potential of Philippine industries, improve human capital and natural resources of our country towards full industrialization. , sustainable and green “, explains Charito. . She hopes that many of the goals will be met before the presidential election in May 2022.

Charito is an example to many, but she believes there is no perfect recipe for leadership. In a government role, however, she insists that there is no room for passivity.

“Leaders need to proactively think outside the box, be people-centered and promote the well-being of the people and the stability of the economy,” she said. “Leaders make the impossible possible to effect positive change. We have to think global and act local.

“A leader must be a visionary, dedicated and able to serve his country and its citizens. Leaders need to be creative, proactive and determined, yet emphatic and passionate at the same time. “

Especially in a country full of potential. “The Philippines has many strengths that attract foreign investment: from its people to its natural resources, its climate and its democratic stability,” she said. “The Filipino brand of excellence is world class, which makes the Philippines the best place to invest.

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