Marcos urged: Settle PEZA row ASAP

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Marcos urged: Settle PEZA row ASAP
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 25, 2022.
Aaron Favila via AFP / pool

MANILA, Philippines — It would be in the best interest of the Marcos administration if the President resolves at the soonest time possible the ongoing confusion in the leadership of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), a key House official said yesterday.

“Only PBBM (President Marcos) can decisively end the confusion through an appointment. The PEZA law is very clear that the director general is appointed by the President,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives, suggested.

“With a weak peso, the best thing we can do, economically, is to focus on exports and dollar-earning industries and services. The leadership issue in PEZA will make investors think our investment regime is overly politicized and therefore risky,” he added.

Salceda made the pronouncement following the decision of Charito Plaza, an appointee of former president Rodrigo Duterte whose six-year term ended last June 30, to stay as director-general of PEZA.

This dispute came out in the news despite the designation by Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual – an appointee of the incumbent – of Tereso Panga as PEZA officer-in-charge.

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Herminio Bagro III said that the PEZA director general position was “legally deemed vacant as of June 30 noontime” following the issuance of Memorandum Circular 1 by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez on the same date.

Salceda stressed that appointing a PEZA head is “critical in the fight against smuggling.”

“This is lesser known, but the PEZA head is also crucial in our fight against smuggling, including agricultural products. Freeports and ecozones, if too lax in enforcement and too pro-business, can be used as pass-throughs for smuggled goods,” he explained.

The House leader expressed concern that the “leadership question over PEZA threatens our ability to maximize the favorable conditions for exports.”

“President Marcos should nominate a PEZA director general as soon as he can find a suitable appointee,” Salceda said. “That means, we are surely getting the bad parts of a weak currency, such as high import prices, but we are handicapped from taking advantage of the better parts, such as higher exports-to-peso value and more competitive export pricing.”

Salceda also warned that if the dispute extends until budget hearings in Congress, the agency will suffer: “The PEZA head submits the agency’s budget to the Board, and without a director general, we might not be clear about which budget to discuss in Congress.”

Salceda hopes Marcos’ appointment will be “someone deeply familiar with the letter and spirit of the CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) Law, so that PEZA can actually take advantage of the tax regime, rather than keep pushing for its amendment so early in the implementation of the law.”

He appealed to Marcos “to appoint a steady pair of hands who can help the exports sector sail through the prospect of potential lockdowns here and elsewhere, volatility in global trade conditions, the trend towards protectionism among our trading partners and higher probabilities of global conflict.

“Never since the late 1970s and the 1990s have I seen such a global environment for exports that is so complex as the one we’re in. The exports sector needs a captain who can steer the ship drama-free,” Salceda added.



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