By: Alex P. Vidal
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” – Bill Gates
IF there is one thing Ilonggos should be proud of when President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed a proclamation creating an Information Technology Center Special Economic Zone in Mandurriao, Iloilo City, is it’s a first in the Philippines.
Special economic zones (SEZ), or the ECOZONES, are defined in the Republic Act No. 7916 or The Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 as “selected areas with highly developed or which have the potential to be developed into agro-industrial, industrial tourist/recreational, commercial, banking, investment, and financial centers.”
Information Technology (IT), which probably still did not have a special appeal from SEZ framers when the law was enacted, is now making a debut; and it’s happening in Iloilo City.
An ECOZONE may contain any or all of the following: industrial estates (IEs), export processing zones (EPZs), free trade zones, and tourist/recreational centers.
When the law was enacted, Iloilo was not even included as among the cities and provinces in the Philippines identified as ECOZONES in a system of prioritization for viability and geographic dispersal.
In order to be established as an ECOZONE, an area must be subjected to the evaluation and recommendation of the PEZA, based on a detailed feasibility and engineering study which must conform to several criteria.
Those included, among other cities, municipalities, and provinces were “portions” of Morong, Hermosa, Dinalupihan, Orani, Samal, and Abucay in the Province of Bataan; municipalities of Ibaan, Rosario, Taysan, San Jose, San Juan, and cities of Lipa and Batangas; City of Cagayan de Oro in the Province of Misamis Oriental; City of Iligan in the Province of Lanao del Norte; Province of Saranggani; City of Laoag in the Province of Ilocos Norte.
Also, Davao City and Samal Island in the Province of Ilocos Norte; Oroquieta City in the Province of Misamis Occidental; Tubalan Cove, Malita in the Province of Davao del Sur; a portion of Baler, Dinalungan, and Casiguran including its territorial waters and islets and its immediate environs in the Province of Aurora.
The portions of cities of Naga and Iriga in the Province of Camarines Sur, Legaspi and Tabaco in the Province of Albay, and Sorsogon in the Province of Sorsogon; Bataan Island in the province of Batanes; Lapu-Lapu in the Island of Mactan, and the municipalities of Balamban and Pinamungahan and the cities of Cebu and Toledo and the Province of Cebu, including its territorial waters and islets and its immediate environs.
Also, Tacloban City; Municipality of Barugo in the Province of Leyte; Municipality of Buenavista in the Province of Guimaras; municipalities of San Jose de Buenavista, Hamtic, Sibalom, and Culasi in the Province of Antique; municipalities of Catarman, Bobon and San Jose in the Province of Northern Samar, the Island of Samar.
Municipality of Ternate and its immediate environs in the Province of Cavite; Polloc, Parang in the Province of Maguindanao; Municipality of Boac in the Province of Marinduque; Municipality of Pitogo in the Province of Zamboanga del Sur; Dipolog City-Manukan Corridor in the Province of Zamboanga del Norte; Mambajao, Camiguin Province; Infanta, Real, Polillo, Alabat, Atimonan, Mauban, Tiaong, Pagbilao, Mulanay, Tagkawayan, and Dingalan Bay in the Province of Quezon.
Butuan City and the Province of Agusan del Norte, including its territorial waters and islets and its immediate environs; Roxas City including its territorial waters and islets and its immediate environs in the Province of Capiz.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)