European businesses eyeing expansion in Albay

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LEGAZPI CITY: Albay will soon host a low-cost, labor-intensive manufacturing industrial area with a potential capacity to be developed into a special economic zone where labor costs are substantially lower compared to those in Central Luzon and Metro Cebu, according to the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP).

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“We feel that Albay could be such a location and we would like to discuss our concept in more detail with you during your next visit to Manila,” Henry J. Schumacher, ECCP vice president for external affairs, told Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda in a recent letter.

He said Philippine business groups and joint foreign chambers have been active in recent months in developing a paper on manufacturing in relation to the inclusive growth goal of the government.

Schumacher added that the business group is moving manufacturing businesses, specifically labor-intensive ones, to new locations where infrastructure is available and where industrial zones can be created and labor costs are substantially lower compared to Central Luzon and Metro Cebu.

The ECCP official noted that Albay has high potential, considering its favorable climate — investors-friendly as it is able to provide low-cost leases, has more attractive labor policies, and is considerate to public-private partnership contracts to attract real estate firms to develop businesses on reduced costs.

Albay has also a large pool of new workers which can be trained through a proposed TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Administration) Industrial Scholarship Program wherein high school graduates aged 18 years old and above are hired for apprenticeships for 18-24 months.

With this ECCP proposal, Salceda said he is confident of an “Albay boom” resulting from the province’s conversion into a new ecozone in Southern Luzon.

The economist-governor, also chairperson of the Regional Development Council for Bicol, is bent on making it a reality with the initial creation in Albay of a Domestic/Export Enterprise Zone (D/EEZ), an initial requirement for developing ecozones.

In a recent meeting called by the Provincial Planning and Development Office with representatives from government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, TESDA and local businesses, some possible sites for D/EEZ have been identified.

Among the proposed locations are Homapon, Banquerohan, Embarcadero de Legazpi, Legazpi Domestic Airport (initially declared as D/EEZ) and Polangui area along the national highway.

The focus is on such industries as food, garments, footwear, and furniture industries where Albay has potentially recorded an impressive growth.

Albay province, specifically Legazpi City, has been recognized by the Asian Institute of Management owing to its good business climate and excellent disaster mitigation and adaptation measures.

The EECP’s plan to expand businesses in Albay coincides with the opening of the Legazpi City domestic airport as a new gateway for international chartered flights in Southern Luzon. PNA

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