Economic zones build disaster defenses, the military reservist way

Michelle Ong, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2020 10:59 AM | Updated as of Jan 17 2020 03:01 PM

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MANILA -- Workers in the Philippines' economic zones will undergo disaster response training as military reservists, the government official in charge of the industrial hubs said Friday.

All 60 economic zones in Calabarzon are operational and safe from damage due to the eruption of the Taal Volcano, Philippine Economic Zone Authority Director General Charito Plaza told ANC's Early Edition.

The PEZA has been "emphasizing" disaster preparedness in all 400 economic zones, even before Taal erupted last Jan. 12, said Plaza, a military reservist with the rank of general in the Air Force.

"I see to it that our industry workers, even our locators, both foreign and Filipino locators, PEZA employees will become reservists," she said. "We will be trained primarily on disaster management, disaster response."

"We'll see to it that any type of natural or man-made disaster, God forbid if there's going to be terrorist attack or insurgency attack, all the workers in every ecozone are ready to respond," she said.

Plaza said she was seeking "affiliated reserve unit" status for PEZA in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. She said an "armory" could be set up if needed.

Economic zones in the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon region are "far away" from Taal, the nearest being 43 kilometers from the volcano, she said.

Calabarzon contributes as much as $3 billion (P152 billion) to annual export income, she said.

Plaza said she wrote the office of President Rodrigo Duterte to lift a moratorium on the establishment of new economic zones in Metro Manila.