Tereso Panga has been with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) for the entirety of his career. “I joined PEZA in 1998. I started out as a planning officer,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “I was, at the same time, also studying at the University of the Philippines for my master’s degree.”
From there, he steadily worked his way up the ranks, from Division Chief of Policy and Planning to Zone Manager, along with a raft of other roles before being appointed Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning and, in 2022, Officer in Charge Director General.
“We are truly open for business.”
Since taking the reins, Panga has been busily implementing new strategies for the agency, which promotes the establishment of economic zones, or ecozones, within the Philippines for foreign investments.
It also provides assistance to locator companies in the realms of construction, manufacturing and service facilities, incentives administration, registration and grants of import and export permits as well as visas, certifications and government exemptions.
“The biggest challenge for us is the need to amend the PEZA laws, which were enacted in 1995. This needs amendments to attune it to the present investment landscape and for the agency to properly respond to the demands of investors,” Panga explains.
“We need to beef up the organization in terms of the creation of new positions, and then hire more people because our constituents, the economic zones and the locator companies have been growing.”
One major aspect of this plan has been updating the compensation structure, in order to ensure PEZA is attracting employees of high caliber.
“Right now, we’re losing some key managers to other agencies because they happen to enjoy higher benefits,” Panga says. “We’re doing this because we need to adapt to the times as we deal with companies that compete in the global market.”
In a similar way, PEZA is looking to encourage new investors as well as bolster the growth of existing locators by improving the way they do business.
“When companies become viable as they set up operations in the Philippines, vis-a-vis competition in the region, then we can be assured that they will continue to invest, reinvest and grow their investments in the Philippines,” Panga says.
Equally important is a renewed focus on automation and an overall digital transformation in order to meet the demands of their locators.
Constant agility is vital so that whenever new technologies are introduced, PEZA is able to take advantage of using them – ultimately benefiting both the agency, and the locator companies.
“With automation, we will further enhance ease of doing business because speed is of the essence,” Panga says. “We need to continue to re-engineer our processes, streamline things and automate a lot so that we become more transparent, which will further support the efficiency of operations of our locator companies.”
Having implemented a quality management system for all processes and levels of the agency nationwide over a decade ago, PEZA has distinguished itself as a company that prioritizes the highest standards.
“That’s in keeping with the best practices worldwide because with that, then we can continue to ensure continual improvement in our delivery of services. This is something that our locators really appreciate being with PEZA because we provide a one-stop shop. All their permits are issued by PEZA.
“We also provide nonstop, around the clock service to our locator companies because they operate 24/7, they move goods around 24/7.”
“We also provide nonstop, around the clock service to our locator companies because they operate 24/7, they move goods around 24/7. We’re able to do this not just physically, but through processes of automation. That’s really how PEZA has the edge, the continuous organizational development. It’s because of these reforms and initiatives that we’ve been recognized by global institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United States Department of State.”
Without the support and expertise of stakeholders and suppliers, Panga says PEZA would almost cease to function.
“PEZA is an investment promotion agency,” he explains. “While we have the mandate to develop ecozones nationwide, we cannot do this alone, and so we bring on board partner agencies and industries. We do this through active collaborations and strategic alliances.
“When we see bottlenecks along the way because some of the processes are outside the purview of PEZA, we try to engage the concerned agencies so that we define the terms of our engagement, and we contribute to a common goal, which is really to promote and facilitate investments.”
“While we have the mandate to develop ecozones nationwide, we cannot do this alone, and so we bring on board partner agencies and industries.”
At the end of the day, from here, Panga wants to emphasize that there is no better time than now to be investing in the Philippines.
“The Philippines is a smart investment choice because we perform better than our counterparts in ASEAN, and we’re drawing guidance from the science, technology, innovation-driven industrialization strategy of the Department of Trade and Industry,” he concludes. “We are truly open for business.”