By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have agreed to pursue plans to establish a defense industrial economic zones or defense industrial complexes inside the military reservation areas.
PEZA Director General Charito Plaza said Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr. renewed his support to the PEZA’s efforts in preparing the Filipinos to respond in times of man-made and natural disasters and in modernizing the Philippines’ Armed Forces through PEZA’s ecozone development program.
Plaza has met with the AFP official last week accompanied by PEZA Deputy Director Generals Justo Porfirio Yusingco and Tereso Panga as well as Philippine Ecozones Association (PHILEA) President Francisco Zaldarriaga and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (SEIPI) President Dan Lachica’s courtesy call at the AFP Headquarters at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo.
The planned ecozone will allow the manufacturing of military and defense equipment and weaponry in the country. According to the PEZA chief, “they can start inviting defense industries whose products are what the AFP wanted to equip and modernize.”
According to Plaza, Santos said that modernizing that AFP is now a priority as they have been behind military technology and equipment.
Plaza noted that “creating a Defense Industrial ecozone will not just modernize the country and the defense forces but will also create jobs and put to use the long been idle military reservation areas.” The Director General added that “because of our strategic location, we can also make the Philippines as the manufacturing hub of defense and other industries in the region.”
The PEZA chief also suggested to have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the AFP to clear up its regulatory powers on the proposed creation of a Defense Industrial Complex and its implications to the national security, the defense posture and strategies once defense-related industries starts to come in.
Plaza also gave updates on the status of the Military Reservist Program for PEZA, ecozone and industry workers. The first batch of the Special Basic Citizens Military Training (SBCMT) for the PEZA employees and the workers of the PEZA-registered companies operating inside the PEZA economic zones nationwide has been conducted.
“PEZA’s unique structure with 404 operating ecozones and 4,478 locator companies, once trained, will provide 1.5 million directly and 7 million indirectly employed reservist manpower, as more than enough for the 80% Reserve component of the AFP,” said the PEZA chief, who is a founding Reservist and Brigadier General of the AFP Reserve Force.
Plaza noted that PEZA is now proposing an Administrative Order (AO) to strengthen its reservist program. The AO seeks to: 1) institutionalize the participation of all government agencies, departments, bureaus, GOCCs, and Economic Zone Authorities as well as the LGUs and the private sector to become AFP Reservist Units; 2) the budget allocation for education and training, uniforms, equipage; 3) the role of government agencies and its employees in the event of emergencies and other forms of disasters/calamities, and in nation-building activities; and 4) encouraging the active participation of the private sector through allowable tax deductions on the expense for trainings and equipage of their employee reservist units.
Plaza noted that “everything included [in the proposed AO] are already existing, we just need to enhance it.” Lt. Gen. Santos said he’ll try to “present this to the President during the Joint AFP-PNP Command Conference at Malacañang.”