FFCCI supports Pascual as DTI chief

Published December 9, 2022, 5:38 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Filipino-Chinese business community has thrown strong support behind Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, who is facing opposition on his confirmation at the Commission on Appointments.

In a statement, the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCII) cited the expertise of Pascual to head the DTI. FFCCCII President Henry Lim Bon Liong issued the statement of support to the beleaguered DTI Secretary on Friday, Dec. 9.

“We the 170 Filipino chamber of commerce and other diverse trade association nationwide under the FFCCCII fully supports President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s appointment of the accomplished former University of the Philippines President, former development banker, finance expert and business community stalwart Alfredo Pascual as Secretary of DTI,” the FFCCCII said.

According to the Filipino-Chinese business group, Pascual has “exemplary intellectual, professional, business and moral qualifications to lead the DTI in supporting globally-competitive, innovative, sustainable and inclusive Philippine economic growth.”

FFCCCII further urged legislators in the CA to expeditiously approve the appointment of Pascual for the “benefit of Philippine socio-economic progress.”

Pascual’s confirmation at the CA has been facing headwinds largely due to the controversy over the designation of Philippine Economic Zone Authority Deputy Director General Tereso O. Panga as officer in charge of the agency vice then Director General Charito B. Plaza.

Pascual, chairman of PEZA, has been perceived to have favored Panga to run PEZA over Plaza. Four PEZA employees have alleged they had been unfairly terminated from their services, demoted or put on floating status.

Pascual, in an earlier statement on Thursday, Dec. 8, said he will investigate and address the complaints of some employees at the PEZA.

During his confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments, the DTI chief who is also chairman of PEZA, was grilled by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel over the controversy when Pascual designated Panga as PEZA OIC.

Peza, an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, was previously headed by Director General Charito Plaza.

Pascual explained that the law distinguishes between the functions of the PEZA Board and that of the PEZA Director General. The Board is mainly concerned with general policies on establishing and maintaining economic zones. The Board Chair is not directly involved in PEZA’s day-to-day operations, such as human resource management, he said.

Thus, he was not aware of the pending complaint of four PEZA employees against the PEZA Management until the night before his 6 December scheduled hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA) when the CA Secretariat provided him a copy of the complaint filed with the CA.

On the assumption of Panga as PEZA OIC, Pascual said this was based on Memorandum Circular No. 1, s. 2022, issued by the Office of the President. The circular declared vacant several positions in the government and mandated that the next-in-rank and most senior official fill up the vacant position as Officer-in-Charge (OIC).

The Department of Justice has issued DOJ Opinion No. 17, s. 2022 affirming that the assumption of Deputy Director General Panga as PEZA OIC DG is legal and valid. According to the DOJ Opinion, “Since the position of DG was declared vacant pursuant to MC No. 1, the DDG, as the next-in-rank and the most senior official, validly assumed office as OIC DG of PEZA, and shall continue to perform such functions until 31 December 2022, or until a replacement has been appointed, whichever comes first.”

PEZA, as an attached agency of the DTI, aims to promote the establishment of economic zones in the country to attract foreign investments. PEZA is also tasked to extend assistance, register, grant incentives to, and facilitate the business operations of investors in export-oriented manufacturing and service facilities inside Special Economic Zones.