The Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) for the Development of the Master Plan and Feasibility Study for the Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone (LEIZ) with the Visayas State University (VSU) at the sidelines of the 2017 Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) Regional Roadshow of the agency today (August 24, 2017) in Tacloban City, Leyte.

The proposed LEIZ is part of the strategies under the Copper Industry Roadmap (CIR). Developed by the various industry stakeholders themselves with the support of the BOI, the CIR aims to promote the integrated development and competitiveness of copper and other related industries in the Eastern Visayan region. The roadmap also augurs well with the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in the region after the devastation of Yolanda typhoon three years ago and the recent earthquakes.

“With the aid of experts from the academe and private sector, the BOI will develop the Master Plan for the LEIZ with the timeline to be finished by next year. The Feasibility Study will follow and it is scheduled for completion by 2019. Thereafter, both of these will be actively marketed by the BOI to local and foreign investors for the establishment of the zone,” said BOI Executive Director Raul Angeles who signed the MOC on behalf of the agency together with Dr. Jose Bacusmo, the representative of the VSU.

The Master Plan will cover the development for Isabel, Merida, Palompon, Ormoc, Villaba and Tacloban taking into consideration existing industrial zones and port facilities. The identification of existing and planned industrial zones will include details on how to develop, promote and optimize these areas. These include the range of economic activities that complement other sectors such as food processing, electronics and other light industries. The plan should also identify infrastructure support needed for economic development across these towns and determine existing and new port facilities to be improved or developed.

“Once developed and operational, the LEIZ is expected to complement the 425-hectare Leyte Industrial Development Estate which is home to the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (Pasar), the country’s only copper smelting and refining firm and one of the biggest in Asia,” Trade Undersecretary and BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo said.

“The zone will definitely boost economic activity in the province as this would help manufacturing companies such as electronics and other related industries. Pasar produces copper cathodes, an essential component for electronics products which happens to be our country’s biggest export earner,” he pointed out.

Angeles added that the proposed zone will also promote industry clustering to bring down logistics costs of business and providing steady power supply since Leyte hosts one of the biggest geothermal power plants in the country. Environmental concerns would also be a priority of the project and Angeles cited that the waste of one company could be put into good use like being used as raw materials of other locators. The project will provide not only services for waste management and recycling but also to ensure that the foundations of buildings and other infrastructures are strong enough to withstand natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

As part of the government’s efforts to localize the roadmaps, stakeholders in the copper industry agreed that the creation of an ecological industrial zone will ensure that the region and its provinces will directly benefit from it. With the LEIZ in place, it will also be an opportunity for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive and generate more jobs, bringing in further development to the countryside. Rodolfo stressed this aligns with the objective of the IPP to promote entrepreneurship with the inclusion of MSMEs.

The MOC calls for VSU to appoint project team members who possess the qualifications, educational background, and experience necessary to serve the project and consult with the BOI and the CIR Technical Working Group (TWG) to develop the Master Plan and Feasibility Study of the LEIZ.

The VSU, a zonal state university in the Visayas, runs a strong research, development and extension (RDE) program on sustainable agriculture, industry and environmental protection. The school is geared towards strengthening the capability of national government agencies, local government units (LGUs), people’s organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in its host municipalities and provinces. It also fosters the participation of communities and other stakeholders in setting its RDE agenda.

“The university was chosen for the project because it champions the establishment of research collaboration with industry to finance industry-driven projects and has a mechanism wherein industry can freely collaborate with researchers without jeopardizing the interest of both the university and industry partners,” Angeles stated.

The IPP Roadshow in Tacloban is part of the BOI’s ongoing advocacy to promote the 2017 IPP—a list of priority investment activities that may be given incentives—around the country. BOI already finished conducting IPP Roadshows in Manila, Cebu, Clark and La Union. The Legaspi and Baguio sessions are also being conducted simultaneously with Tacloban. The rest of the upcoming roadshows will be conducted in Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga and General Santos City.

With the Duterte administration’s initiative to address inequality, empower the powerless, highlight inclusivity, and bring prosperity for all, the BOI crafted the strategic investment plan aligned with the President’s Socioeconomic Agenda and Ambiyon 2040: the long term vision for the Philippines. The 2017 IPP theme “Scaling Up and Dispersing Opportunities” guides domestic and foreign investors in matching their entrepreneurial and financial capacities with the identified opportunities to steer the country’s economic growth to a broader and sustainable path.