IN his inaugural address last June 30, President Duterte said he wanted to announce some policies that could not wait for the next day. “I direct all department secretaries and heads of agencies,” he said, “to reduce requirements and the processing time of all applications from the submission to the release.”
There is one government agency which has long been known for just this kind of service – the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). In 1995, on her appointment as PEZA director-general, Lilia B. de Lima announced four pillars of what she called the PEZA Brand, namely, “one-stop shop,” “non-stop shop,” “red-carpet treatment,” and “no corruption.”
In the 21 years since then, a total of 343 PEZA economic zones have been set up by the private sector all over the country. These are information technology parks and centers, tourism, agro-industrial, and medical tourism economic zones that attracted investors in the country and from all over the world. From 1995 to 2015, these foreign investments totaled R3.157 trillion.
Today these zones host 3,756 export-oriented companies which account for 70 percent of the country’s total exports.
Last year’s PEZA exports amounted to $43.97 billion; the total since 1994 is $606.96 billion. PEZA enterprises today employ 1,264,263 people. The International Finance Corporation-World Bank has cited PEZA for best practice among all economic zones worldwide.
Last Monday, Director-General De Lima announced her retirement after 21 years of service which spanned the administrations of President Fidel V. Ramos, President Joseph Estrada, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and President Benigno S. Aquino III. She met with the new Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez before announcing her decision to retire.
“I order all department secretaries and heads of agencies to remove redundant requirements,” President Duterte added in his first order to all government officials during his inaugural speech. “I order all department secretaries and heads of agencies to refrain from changing and bending the rules.”
This is the new order of things in the Duterte administration which is determined to bring about change in the way most government offices have been operating all these years. The PEZA under Director-General De Lima has been an outstanding exception to this general perception of incompetence and poor service. With her retirement, the government will have one less official who knows how it is to serve well and without a tinge of corruption.