PEZA, GRI, and SECO tie-up for SDGs for export enterprises in PH economic zones

Advancing contributions from public and private sectors to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) towards achieving sustainable trade and investments in the export industry in the country, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) held the “Sustainability Forum: Trade and Sustainable Development – Race to the Top” recently at the PEZA Auditorium.

In partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Swiss Confederation’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Sustainability Forum aimed to upgrade the value chain by tapping the hundreds of special economic zones (SEZs) and PEZA’s export enterprises in a way that they are encouraged more to participate in environmental protection, pursue sustainable economic growth.

On behalf of OIC Director General Tereso O. Panga, PEZA Deputy Director General (DDG) for Operations Vivian S. Santos delivered her opening remarks and stated, “As key players in the global market, we all have the responsibility to raise our levels of consciousness and action towards sustainability. We must upgrade global and local value chains to be sustainable in a way that usage of resources promotes and protects the present and future generations’ right for a clean environment.”

DDG Santos also said, “At the same time, we need to strengthen our Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) initiatives and make our stakeholders understand we are managing risks and opportunities related to environmental, social, and governance criteria. Businesses promoting sustainable goals may have this as their competitive advantage.”

This is seconded by the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines Deputy Head of Mission Thimon Fürst stating that “Sustainability reporting is an important tool to increase accountability and transparency which in turn are necessary to building the trust needed for resilient and responsible economies.”

“Sustainability reporting is a vital step towards achieving smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth that balances long-term profitability. Investing in sustainability performance and reporting is [indeed] good for business,” added Fürst.

Partnerships in sustainability

Fürst said, “This partnership with PEZA is a milestone as it is an opportunity to set the right enabling environment for export enterprises so they can adapt sustainability reporting in all aspects of their business. Second, it’s a chance to craft together sustainability reporting standards that befit individual sectors. And third, it serves as a model for other regulatory institutions to follow and achieve a high reputability right for optimal outcome.”

On the part of PEZA, DDG Santos highlighted, [The] key to PEZA’s non-negotiables for registration are the requirements for Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-issued environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and labor right compliance.”

Anchored towards ecozone green transformation for competitive advantage and as a staunch partner of the UN for its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the DDG for Operations mentioned, “PEZA and GRI entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this year with the objective of setting out a structure for the envisaged cooperation between PEZA and GRI to contribute to the acceleration and achievement of the SDGs and the advancement of sustainability reporting in our country, especially within our economic zones.”

In support of the 2030 UN Agenda, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George P. Barcelon said, “Sustainable development raised to the top. This is a timely agenda [that serves] as an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.”

Barcelon also pointed out that “Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are often underserved with lacking access to affordable trade and finance. Export financing has a very important role to play here as a great equalizer and as a catalyst for investment as it feeds the cycle of production, marketing, and selling. Which is why it is crucial for MSMEs to have easier access to financing.”

Meanwhile, on the role of sustainability and export trading, Philippine Exporters Confederation Executive Vice President & CEO Senen M. Perlada agrees with OIC DDG Santos stating that, “Including sustainability for exporters is [indeed] a competitive advantage. The exports industry was exempted from the [pandemic] lockdowns and was actually in a way shielded from the many disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Perlada also said, “This sector had to make adjustments not just to continue doing business but as a commitment to the global value chain and production network. We must focus on business continuity and being other-centered as we are all working together to ensure unhampered operations despite the challenges that may come such as in health and natural calamities.”

PEZA also recently signed an MOU with Upgrade Energy Philippines Inc. (UGEP) for the development and implementation of solar projects including 10 MW each at the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ) and Baguio City Economic Zone (BCEZ).

PEZA and GRI will establish a Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of various locators and industries that encourages the observance of sustainability actions and reports. Meanwhile, on the plans of issuing a Memorandum Circular (MC) regarding SDG guidelines, a round table discussion will be in place in the first quarter of 2023.

PEZA’s initiatives in support of SDGs

As a way forward, PEZA targets the implementation of environmental, health, and safety programs that seeks to provide a globally competitive and sustainable business environment for investors.

DDG Vivian Santos said, “PEZA is looking into new frontiers in ecozone development such as mineral processing zones, renewable energy parks, knowledge, innovation, science, and technology parks, aquamarine ecozones, halal hubs, biotech centers, defense industrial complexes, and pharmaceutical ecozones to cater to new industries under the new Strategic Investment Priorities Plan (SIPP) and to promote emerging global economic zone models in the Philippines.”

Embassy of Switzerland Senior Economic and Trade Officer Kent Marjun Primor lauded PEZA for its one-stop-shop and non-stop shop services stating, “PEZA is very easy to work with and they are transparent because of their digitalized transactions. Whenever businesses inquire to me [on where to set up their operations], I would say, go [and register] with PEZA.”

The PEZA-GRI Sustainability forum was divided into three sessions namely, “The Role of Sustainability in Export Strategy and Performance”, “Sustainable Export Finance as an Engine for Growth”, and “The Accelerating Regulatory Landscape in Sustainable Export Trading.”

With these sessions, exports-oriented enterprises and relevant companies shared their knowledge and expertise on strategically recalibrating business operations across the supply chain, especially amidst the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis.

The forum had also been conducted with support and cooperation with PEZA Promotions and Public Relations Group (PPRG) Group Manager and DDG for Finance and Administration Aleem Siddiqui M. Guiapal, Corporate Communications Division (CCD) led by Division Chief (DC) Tasneem Eshmael and Investment Promotions Division (IPD) DC Raison D. Arobinto.