The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan said that it expects more foreign locators after the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asia (Asean) Economic Community (AEC) transforming Asean into a single, liberalized market.
Locators in the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) increased to 93 in 2014 from only 39 in 2010, when the Authority took over operations from the Bataan Export Processing Zone.
Aside from bringing more investments and job opportunities, the AFAB said that the investors will also help SMEs in the province of Bataan, downplaying concerns that the formation of the AEC and liberalization of the Asean market will only marginalize local enterprises.
“We see that SMEs would find niches in at least serving the bigger players to also experience the benefits of liberalization, which in the case of the FAB is to cater to the higher end products at the right price,” AFAB Chairman Deogracias G.P. Custodio said.
“For instance, as a result of the manufacturing activities inside the FAB, these are SMEs already looking at supplying zippers and other components for the high-end bag products,” he added. “Similarly, small and medium sized packaging companies are already in high demand, and although Chinese locators still source packaging from China, as demand grows, it would be more feasible for local suppliers to participate.”
Chairman Custodio stressed that the Authority wants to assure that the multiplier effects of investments in the freeport will not only benefit the human capital pool, but also other sectors and the whole local economy as a whole.
Also, AFAB is pushing for stronger partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) as it seeks to maintain the best labor services that it offers to its locators.
The initiative was formulated as the AFAB generates strong interest among global investors and expects to need thousands of skilled workers in the next three years.
“Consequently, we have strengthened our communication lines with TESDA and our locators regarding their plans. This is to make sure that we can provide the labour requirements of our existing and incoming locators,” Custodio said.
The AFAB has been formulating programs to strengthen the work force in Bataan to ensure a steady stream of qualified and skilled workers with high productivity levels who can be hired immediately.
With the help of TESDA, the provincial government of Bataan and the local government of Mariveles, the AFAB is developing a system where the work pool is in sync with the current and future demands within the FAB to guarantee immediate hiring.
Meanwhile, the number of workers in the FAB breached the 20,000 mark in 2014.
With the surge in investments, more jobs were opened in the FAB. There are already 20,017 freeport workers as of December 2014 compared to the 17,490 employees recorded in the same period last year.
The AFAB aims to provide more job opportunities this year to ensure that the people on the ground benefit from the continuous growth of the local economy.
The FAB is the emerging fashion manufacturing hub of the Philippines as it possesses a budding cluster of companies producing high-end brands of garments, apparel, shoes and accessories, like bags, jewelries, among others. 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, and global competitiveness.