Investment commitments in the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) surged 38 times to more than P84 billion in the first 10 months of 2014 from just P2.2 billion a year ago as more and more companies are locating in the area which is fast emerging as the country’s leading fashion manufacturing hub.
The Authority said the P84.3 billion worth of investment pledges came from 17 new business projects, which include business process outsourcing (BPO) and information technology related firms, a footwear manufacturing company, a distillery business and a bulk terminal operator, among others.
Notable companies that have decided to locate in the FAB include BPO firm Grand lnnovasia Concept Corp. (GICC), Perpetual Prime Manufacturing Inc. (PPMI) and Seasia Nectar Port Services inc. (SNPSl).
GlCC is currently developing an IT Technopark for BPO online/ interactive gaming activities. The BPO firm will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex on December 16. PPM will manufacture high-end shoes at the FAB. To date, PPMI has already started its manpower pooling in coordination with the AFAB Labor Center.
SNPSl, on the other hand, will engage in bulk terminal operations. The presence of SNPSl will help in attracting more investors to locate at the FAB as shipment costs will be reduced.
Due to the sudden surge in its foreign direct investments, the FAB has been recognized as the fastest growing freeport in the country by the National Statistics Coordination Board in 2012 and 2013.
“Since the Authority took over operations from the Bataan Export Processing Zone, it was able to increase the number of locators by nearly 236 percent, from 39 in 2010 to 92 in August this year. The AFAB is also luring more foreign investments. These are among the reasons why the FAB was tagged as the fastest growing freeport in the country,” FAB chairman and administrator Deogracias Custodio said on Thursday at the AFAB office in Bataan.
Today, the FAB is known as one of the leading manufacturing hubs in the country with a budding cluster of companies producing high-end brands of garments, apparel, shoes and accessories like bags and jewelry, among others.
“We assure the national government and the locals in Bataan that we will continue to bring investments in the region and make sure that the economic growth is felt by the people,” Custodio said.
Trade Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo Jr. recently expressed confidence that the local supply chain and labor force competencies in the FAB are already established.
With the continuous increase in local and foreign investments, thousands of jobs were also opened in the freeport. The newly approved companies are expected to generate at least 5,000 jobs. The number of freeport workers has risen to 19,379 as of November this year compared to the 17,490 employees recorded in the same period last year and 12,777 in 2010.
Meanwhile, the export earnings of locators in the FAB stood at $348.8 million as of November 27, down by 13.3 percent from $402.4 million a year earlier as shipments were affected by the Manila port congestion.
There are 98 registered and approved locators in the FAB as of June this year and they include businesses from Korea, Taiwan, China, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, France and Germany.
“Its vision is to be the freeport of choice in the country by 2020, becoming a center of trade, innovation and sustainable development in Asia and promoting work-life balance, global competitiveness and environment protection,” Custodio said.