Monday, 2 February 2009

Philippine export zones see 5% rise in employment

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
With Eileen A. Mencias
The Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news1_feb2_2009

JOBS at the special economic zones will rise 5 percent this year despite the global financial meltdown that has forced electronics makers, the Philippines’ top exporters, to cut down on production, an official said yesterday.

“This is our fighting target this year,” said Lilia de Lima, director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

“Our fighting target in investment is a 10-percent increase, and in employment a 5-percent increase.”

De Lima made the statement even as the central bank lowered its projections on the growth of worker remittances, to a range of 3 to 6 percent from 6 to 9 percent, as a result of the expected layoffs in the developed economies.

“Job losses will affect the deployment of labor, but there is enough flexibility in terms of Filipino labor because of their profile,” Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said.

“We’re exporting more skilled workers—mainly medical and other professionals—and they can easily switch [job locations] depending on where the opportunities are.”

In January, the central bank forecast that remittances would expand 6 to 9 percent this year to reach $17.9 billion.

Another official said the government had allocated P18 billion for the first stage of its emergency employment program to help laid-off workers.

The amount would help create new employment for 63,672 low-income workers, said Domingo Panganiban, head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

“The beneficiary workers will be hired in projects that will serve to improve and preserve the fruits of our recent economic gains,” he said.

De Lima said some electronics firms were cutting production, but new investment in other sectors would take up the slack to keep employment growing at the special economic zones.

“While some companies are slowing down, there are some that are starting or expanding,” she said, citing a company producing medical instruments.

“The problem is that we are just counting the minuses; nobody is counting the pluses. There are companies from other Asian countries that are planning to transfer here, but we cannot disclose them yet.”

De Lima said Flash-memory maker Numonyx had absorbed 600 employees laid off by Intel Corp. in Cavite province, and that it would soon move its machinery from Pudong in China to the Philippines.

She said companies at the special economic zones employed more than 600,000 people, and that new investment would keep the employment level well above that figure this year.

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