I will be among the first to laud the excellent performance and good business practice of thePhilippine Economic Zone Authority under Director General Lilia de Lima who retired June of last year. In our many interviews with Director de Lima over perhaps a decade, the gracious lady was the epitome of a great leader, incorruptible and relentless in pursuing her single mission: attract more foreign direct investments in the country. Kudos Madame Director General, we salute you.
PEZA is now under a new chief, Director General Charito Plaza who, we pleasantly note, is not wasting any time in continuing the world with new ideas heretofore untried. She is bent on developing new types of eco zones throughout the country, prominent among which is the development of a defence industrial economic zone. There are billions to be made in the defence sector, and Director Plaza knows this too well. These eco zones can be used to manufacture anything from airships to military equipment like tanks, from drones to combat clothing.
A 3,000 hectare space in Hermosa, Bataan is being eyed for this proposed development. The land was donated by the Mayor of Hermosa precisely for this development, aware of the employment potentials and other benefits to the town. Also, the proposed eco zone is situated strategically next to the existing 300-hectare arsenal of Camp HeneralAntonio Luna under the Dept. of National Defence. A private developer could be tapped to develop this huge property, and Director Plaza is now on the lookout for a competent, reliable partner for this.
According to PEZA, they are even open to exchange deals for investors willing to come in. Our Dept. of National Defence is in the process of modernizing the military and upgrading our equipment. Investors who come in may opt to pay their rents of the eco zone facility through much-needed products like military equipment, arms, etc. Even the Philippine National Police, also in need of modernization and upgrading of their equipment, could be one of the beneficiaries of such a deal and perhaps even the transfer of technology from these investors.
Currently, Armscor is the only local manufacturer legitimately exporting arms, and may I add that the company has made a name in the global arms trade because of their excellent firearms and ammunitions. Their Rock Island Armory in the United States has been featured on the cover of well-known arms magazines several times.
Director Plaza is now eyeing to put the Philippines on the map of defence materials. According to her, she raised this issue with some foreign investors in Qatar during an exhibit of military equipment and she was inspired by the positive response. In these uncertain times where war rages in different parts of the globe and the threat continues every day, many countries are now fortifying their defines equipment like never before.
Director General Plaza says that PEZA is also looking at more areas for development into defence eco zones: in Puerto Princesa where they have identified a 1,500 hectare space; at least two areas inMindanao, two in Luzon and one in Zambales.
Over a period of nine years during the Marcos dictatorship, the government collected levy of between P20 to P76.00 per 100 kilos of the first sale of copra, promising them full development of the coconut industry and a share in the fruits of the investments of these funds. Now, the coco levy fund has ballooned to P75 billion, money which the 3.5 million coconut farmers who were taxed can certainly use and enjoy. Unfortunately, proof of payment is required of these farmers, and most of them have lost their receipts or other proof of payment over the last four or so decades. The government has set a registry period for the coconut farmers which will end in February of this year, and the Philippine Statistics Authority's estimate of registrants is only 1.9 million. Most probably, many of them have passed away, considering the time lapsed. Only about 5% of these farmers are now eligible to receive direct cash from the coco levy fund, which means that only 175,000 will finally realize the refund of the taxes wrongfully levied on them.
With luck, the distribution of cash to these eligible farmers with proof of payment will happen before June of this year. The TRO issued by the Supreme Court on the disposition of the coco levy fund is expected to be lifted soon.
The Philippines' rubber industry lags sorely behind Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia . These countries no longer sell raw rubber in their local market. Now, the Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) is looking to give our local rubber industry a shot in the arm through the manufacture of condoms. The Philippines, according to PRRI Executive Director Rodolfo Galang, needs a plant that could process latex which is needed to make condoms. We have twenty five natural rubber-processing plants in the Philippines, but most of them serve the needs of tire manufacturers.
Actually, these plants can manufacture other products aside from condoms like medical gloves and catheters, but since the Philippines imports all these, including condoms from our neighbors who have a more developed rubber industry, PRRI thinks condom manufacturing can be a viable business, especially now that the Dept. of Health has a condom-distribution program.
Our rubber consumption in the country is much less than our production, so we export our surplus to South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and China. The PRRI is looking at more intensified replanting of rubber, so we can expect to have better harvest in the coming years.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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