Former socioeconomic planning secretary Karl Chua has been floated as a possible replacement for Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) director general Charito Plaza amid an impasse over the top post at the agency.
House Ways and Means committee chairman and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday (August 7) to step in to resolve the leadership row at PEZA involving Plaza and Deputy Director General Tereso Panga, who has been designated by Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual as officer-in-charge.
Pascual appointed Panga as OIC under the assumption that Plaza must vacate her spot by June 30, being an appointee of former President Rodrigo Duterte. But Plaza now insists that PEZA is not like other government agencies, and that her appointment is not coterminous with Duterte.
Aside from Chua, Salceda said other potential replacements for Plaza include former socioeconomic planning chief Dante Canlas, Trade Undersecretaries Ceferino Rodoldo and Rafaelita Aldaba, Fiscal Incentives Review Board Secretary Juvy Danofrata, and exports economist Professor Florian Alburo from the University of the Philippines.
“With a weak peso, the best thing we can do, economically, is to focus on exports and dollar-earning industries and services.. The leadership issue in PEZA will make investors think our investment regime is overly politicized and therefore risky,” Salceda said in a statement.
PEZA facilitates the entry of foreign companies in the country as they set up factories and offices within accredited ecozones. Foreign firms enjoy special tax breaks and other fiscal perks for choosing to relocate their operations in the Philippines or for expanding their existing businesses here through additional capital infusion.
“If the dispute extends until budget hearings in Congress, the institution will suffer,” Salceda warned, saying PEZA of all agencies should be “drama-free” to keep attracting more investments.
“Only PBBM can decisively end the confusion through an appointment. The PEZA law is very clear that the Director General is appointed by the President,” he added, noting that the next appointee should be “someone deeply familiar with the letter and spirit of the CREATE Law.”
“I appeal to PBBM to appoint a steady pair of hands who can help the exports sector sail through the prospect of potential lockdowns here and elsewhere, volatility in global trade conditions, the trend towards protectionism among our trading partners, and higher probabilities of global conflict.”
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Malacañang’s legal experts are looking into the issue before they announce who should head PEZA.