CEZA in the doldrums due to COVID-19

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) that sits in a 54,000-hectare area in Sta. Ana, Cagayan was not able to generate income since last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines/MANILA BULLETIN File photo)

Nevertheless, it continues to build infrastructure projects such as roads, bridge and port improvements at Port Irene as it awaits investors and locators, the CEZA said during the Senate finance subcommittee's deliberation on its proposed 2022 budget.

At the hearing led by Senator Grace Poe, Senate finance committee vice chairperson, the CEZA said that of its 16 infrastructure projects, six were completed. The six consists of causeway and wharf projects and roads.

But its power rate of P11 per kilowatt hour (KWH) is high compared to Metro Manila’s P9.10 kwh, enough to put off investors, Poe said. CEZA’s power supply comes from the nationally-owned Luzon grid.

Something has to be done about the high power rate to encourage investors although there are tax incentives given by government, she pointed out.

They also said that a nuclear power plant is feasible based on the position of the Department of Energy (DOE).

CEZA officials led by Agrimero A. Cruz Jr., deputy administrator, complained that tourist inflow has virtually stopped.

One such schedule is the Macau-Lallo (Cagayan) flight. It stopped since COVID-initiated quarantines had been initiated.

They said lawyer Raul Lambino, CEZA chairman, was reported recovering in Dagupan city from COVID-19 infection.

They also told CEZA’s number of locaters had been reduced due to sluggish business operations in the Zone.

A casino in the Zone has stopped operating and there is a slow down in the operation of a hotel.

CEZA officials asked for P228.84 million in equity and subsidy from the national government.

Of the 2,626 workers in the Zone, 923 are foreigners, mostly in the technical field.

While gaming operations have slowed down, the financial technology business is ‘’crawling,’’ they added.

Cruz said the Cagayan Leisure and Recreation Company, owned by a Filipino businessman, is operating in Zone.

This same company is building an airport at the Zone in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

CEZA officials said investors and tourists complained that the State-owned airport in Lallo, Cagayan is 70 kilometers away from the Zone.

They are optimistic that they would be able to collect P148 million owed by Cagayan Leisure.