Defense firms eye industrial zone manufacturing in the Philippines

Philippine Economic Zone Authority plans to transform military reservation areas in Fort Bonifacio, Camp Evangelista, and Maguindanao into defense industrial complexes to manufacture military weapons and equipment. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

DEFENSE EQUIPMENT manufacturers have been showing interest in setting up operations in the Philippines as soon as industrial zones are put up, a top official of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said.

“There are manifestations of companies — those who are manufacturing defense equipment, uniforms, weapons, military ships and aircraft — marami nang nag-invoke ng kanilang (many have expressed their) interest to bring their manufacturing companies here once we have the defense industrial complexes,” PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said in an online interview on Thursday.

PEZA plans to transform military reservation areas in Fort Bonifacio, Camp Evangelista, and Maguindanao into defense industrial complexes to manufacture military weapons and equipment. Ms. Plaza is aiming to have the areas declared as industrial zones before the end of the Duterte administration in mid-2022.

PEZA is starting with the Philippine Army, which has the biggest share of reservation areas at almost 20,000 hectares. The goal, Ms. Plaza said, is to make the local defense industry less reliant on imports.

“First thing that we did is identify military reservation areas that could become an ecozone or a defense industrial complex. We have identified about seven or eight,” she said.

The proposed transformation would go through an approval process spanning the Philippine Army, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of National Defense.

The succeeding approval from PEZA would then be forwarded to the Office of the President, which would amend the proclamation of military reservation areas and convert them into industrial complexes.

“We have now many pending applications of defense industries. They are waiting for the implementation of the defense ecozones so that they can already apply to become its locators.” Ms. Plaza said.

The House of Representatives in February approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8212 or the Special Defense Economic Zone (SpeDEZ) Act, which establishes a defense industrial zone in Camp Gen. Antonio Luna in Bataan to be run by a new independent government body.

VACCINE MANUFACTURING
Meanwhile, Ms. Plaza also confirmed details about the Israeli-Filipino partnership that would manufacture oral coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in the Philippines.

Approved by PEZA, the initial capital investment of P1.5 billion from the Savepoint Biotek, Inc. and MIGAL Galilee Research Institute partnership will put up manufacturing operations in the Pampanga Economic Zone.

“They hope to become the supplier of the whole of Asia, if not the whole world,” Ms. Plaza said.

The Israel state-funded MIGAL Galilee Research Institute is going through a testing and approval process for its COVID-19 vaccine, the Times of Israel reported last year.

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