PEZA backtracks, orders IT-BPOs to return onsite

After contesting and invoking certain rules to justify continued work from home (WFH) arrangement, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is now urging its registered business enterprises (RBEs) --IT-BPOs -- to return to onsite operations.

Philippine Economic Zone Authority

This is in compliance with the decision of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) denying PEZA’s request to extend WFH for its IT-BPO firms beyond the March 31, 2022 deadline. The FIRB allowed PEZA IT-BPO firms to operate 90-10 (WFH-onsite) work arrangement until March 31, 2022 as its assistance to PEZA RBEs.

“The allowance of the 90-10 WFH (work-from-home) set-up was just a temporary measure during the pandemic. Now that we’re reopening the economy, we’re going back to the regular ratio required of registered business enterprises (RBEs) inside the ecozones,” said PEZA Director General Charito ‘Ching’ Plaza.

Earlier, however, Plaza told Manila Bulletin it will be issuing a memorandum circular within the week or before March 31 to allow its IT-BPO RBEs to continue operating under a 70-30 (onsite-WHF) hybrid work arrangement.

However, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who is also PEZA Chairman, rebuffed Plaza in a statement stressing that PEZA RBEs should resume onsite operations starting Friday, April 1, as required under the law.

Lopez emphasized there is no extension of the 90-10 WFH arrangement, which was allowed by the Fiscal Incentives and Review Board (FIRB) as a form of assistance for PEZA RBEs during the pandemic. This assistance to PEZA RBEs will expire on March 31, 2022.

He explained that given the significant reduction in Covid-19 cases and the general economic recovery strategy, all businesses are enjoined to do more onsite operations to encourage the revival of the other sectors, particularly the Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) around offices.

But companies operating outside the economic zones have more flexibility as to the degree of WFH arrangements that is suitable to their operations, he added.

Plaza explained that they have been supportive of the proposal of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) to implement hybrid work scheme for the IT-BPO sector. “However, we need to follow the regulations as mandated by the law,” noted Plaza.

Plaza said that PEZA abides with the decision of the FIRB for 100 percent on-site work for IT-BPOs, while it acknowledged the need to review and establish legal framework in order to implement a hybrid work model.