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Pilot Cebu environmental program pushed for ecozones in Luzon

Friday, June 26, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]


THE PHILIPPINE Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) will replicate an ecological program piloted in Cebu in three public economic zones, with the aim of not just mitigating climate change but also improving firms’ efficiency amid the economic crisis.

PEZA officials, alongside representatives of the GTZ German international cooperation agency, yesterday announced that they have formed government-private sector planning and monitoring teams to implement the program in the public ecozones in Baguio, Bataan and Cavite.

The program, a copy of the three-year initiative tested at the two industrial zones in Mactan, Cebu, has three pillars: waste and water management, energy management, and corporate social responsibility projects.

GTZ Country Director Jochem Lange said this thrust does not tackle only environmental concerns but also helps participating firms cope with the economic downturn.

"The project is dealing with energy management [for instance], which results in substantial energy savings...This means immediate cost reduction, which is much appreciated in times of economic crisis. Energy [management] is more suited to improve efficiency rather than reduce number of staff," Mr. Lange said at the program celebrating the conclusion of Mactan’s test run.

Targeting economic zones for environmental management, he added, is strategic, since industry contributes nearly 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

In the same event, PEZA Director General Lilia B. de Lima said that having such "environmental infrastructure" in place should enhance zones’ attractiveness to investors.

"Multipartite monitoring teams" made up of officials from locator-enterprises, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and economic zones’ management will begin by defining a baseline, said Vivian Cerrer, the PEZA official who headed the Mactan project.

Targets

The team will then draft targets such as energy savings, air quality, and number of firms complying with environmental standards.

For the two Mactan economic zones, the target is to reduce the number of non-compliant firms by 33%, cut water and energy consumption by 15%, and slash waste production by 25% from 2006 levels.

Actual performance will be measured in August.

Other economic zones will be crafting their own targets according to their specific conditions, Ms. Cerrer later clarified in an interview at the sidelines of the event.

Ms. Cerrer added that the program is voluntary. "But we’ve had good participation in Mactan, even if it wasn’t compulsory," she noted.

Private economic zones, particularly manufacturing estates, will be encouraged to adopt the program as well.

Information packets on the start-up procedures will be made available in August, Ms. Cerrer said. — Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

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