By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) are at odds over the creation of police offices in economic zones with the former stressing this may violate workers’ rights while the latter claiming it is nothing more than further easing doing business in ecozones and protecting ecozone employees and locators.
PEZA Director General Charito ‘Ching’ Plaza has clarified that the investment promotion agency’s “Joint Industrial Peace Concerns Office (JIPCO)” project in partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP) is part of realizing the ease of doing business inside the ecozones and ensuring the safety and welfare of the workers and locators alike.
The PEZA Chief’s comment come after DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed concerns on the JIPCO initiative. Plaza said the Labor Secretary refers to the need to protect statutory rights of workers in economic and freeport zones.
The PEZA Chief underlined that “the goal of PEZA in entering into the JIPCO with the PNP is to promote the ease of doing business and to ensure that all of its ecozones are safe and secured for the benefit of the workers, locators and investors in the area.”
Plaza noted that two non-negotiable in PEZA in terms of registering and managing locator companies in ecozones is first, upholding labor laws and the rights, morale and welfare of the Filipino workers, and second, the compliance to environmental and protection laws.
“Filipino workers’ rights is in our hearts and minds in PEZA. Filipino workers are our friends, not enemies. We should win their hearts and minds, so it is our shared goal to take care of their welfare and concerns. Key performance areas of PEZA are in investment, exports, and employment. Investments generate jobs and the country has good human capital. It is our interest that both locators and workers are taken care of,” said Plaza.
Plaza assured that certainly, PEZA observes labor laws and standards in a way that the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining are respected for industrial peace.
JIPCO shall significantly contribute to providing a globally competitive business environment by addressing security issues and other concerns in the workplace, according to Plaza.
In particular, JIPCO requires PNP to detail police personnel in a strategically located Police Community Precinct (PCP), which is provided by PEZA and ecozone stakeholders. The PCP shall be situated along the periphery of ecozones.
“A PNP station will be put up in huge ecozones so that the police permits and clearances of thousands of workers will be within their reach. JIPCO also aims to help the PEZA security force in enforcing the law and ensuring peace and order in the ecozones,” noted Plaza.
To date, PEZA manages 404 private and public ecozones which directly employ more than 1.5 million Filipino workers.
In a statement, Bello raised concern on the labor and economic impact of the establishment of such a structure within special economic and freeport zones.
“We express serious concern with the establishment of such structure within special economic and freeport zones in view of its labor and economic impact, considering that the effective exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining contribute to the sustainment of industrial peace and inclusive growth,” he said in a statement.
In addition, Bello said that the establishment of JIPCO could also impact the country’s trade and investment opportunities.