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BUSINESS CONFIDENCE IN CAGAYAN FREEPORT REMAINS HIGH DESPITE PANDEMIC | Cagayan Economic Zone Authority

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE IN CAGAYAN FREEPORT REMAINS HIGH DESPITE PANDEMIC

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE IN CAGAYAN FREEPORT REMAINS HIGH DESPITE PANDEMIC

By: Liz Lagniton

 

CAGAYAN FREEPORT—Despite the pandemic, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) still attracted new investments, proving that opportunities abound even during the challenging times in this investment destination.

As of this writing, CEZA has reached 104.17 million in revenue in the second quarter (Q2) of 2021 mainly from licensing fees, rent, lease, seaport system fees, processing fees, passport, visa, and application fees, [and] other business incomes.

This is after Secretary Raul Lambino, CEZA Administrator and CEO positioned the 54,000-hectare Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) in Santa Ana, Cagayan as an investment hub for financial technology (fintech) -- attracting businesses in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as well as in the tourism and entertainment industries.

The increase of CEZA locators is moderate which means the numbers of locators registered to have business in the Cagayan Freeport are in a steady trend. It also showed a minimal increase as of the first quarter of this year.

In terms of capital investments, CEZA has recorded only an almost 4% decrease from P13.067 billion in 2019 to P12.575 billion in 2020. This indicated the high business confidence of the current locators in the Freeport.

Since Secretary Lambino assumed office in late 2017, various projects improving the lives of Cagayanos are being initiated in Cagayan Freeport — the hub of the agency’s growing business ventures and tourism attractions.

The construction of the major infrastructure projects of CEZA is continuously implemented while assuring that proper health protocols are in place. Some of these projects are nearing completion and targeted to be inaugurated within the year, according to the Secretary.

At the Port Irene in Casambalangan area, a newly completed road and bridge section of the port for trucks’ turnaround routes and cargo hauling is now visible and passable while CEZA plans to open in San Vicente Port its new extended wharf for inter-island ships, RORO operations and fishermen using the facility.

For the first quarter of 2021 alone, Port Irene has already accommodated 12 shipments which are 46% of the number of ship calls accommodated in 2020. The growth in the foreign ship calls was recorded even though the port is currently undergoing retrofitting and rehabilitation.

“CEZA continues to build new infrastructure and necessary modernization in Port Irene facilities to accommodate larger ships in the future,” Secretary Lambino said.

The state-of-the-art three-story CEZA Commercial Building shall be completed and ready for use this year while another three-story Corporate Center shall be ready for use by next year.

"The facilities are both equipped with internet connectivity, which will be used by firms engaged in cutting-edge, digital-based financial technology solutions and other enterprises to include supermarkets, banks, and outlets of various products," the Secretary said.

According to the Secretary, if not for the pandemic, CEZA would have been at the forefront destination as an economic center in the North which would have been coincided with the completion of the crucial infrastructure projects in the Freeport.

However, he also said that “Amid the restrictions due to COVID-19, business confidence in Cagayan Freeport remain high while waiting for the new normal to finally settle for a regular commercial activity.”

During the pandemic, the investment agency such as CEZA gives its locators various economic relief aid and assured to continue to be proactive in managing the COVID-19 situation in the Cagayan Freeport —to further stimulate the local economy and create better benefits for its stakeholders.

A total of 2,598 workers are directly employed in CEZA from the Cagayan Valley region as of the first quarter (Q1) this year compared to 2,495 recorded in 2020. This means that CEZA is true to its mandate to make sure that Cagayanos are benefitted from the economic activity in the Freeport — to further improve their quality of life.

In terms of tourism, the town of Santa Ana where the Cagayan Freeport is located is considered as the number one tourism-generated in the Cagayan Valley Region. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has even lauded Santa Ana as a “stand-alone” tourism destination in the region.

CEZA also recorded an increasing trend from 2017 to 2019, even reached the highest 147,109 in its tourist arrival in 2019. However, as anticipated, the movement was abruptly halted when the pandemic hits the country in early 2020.

But despite this situation, there is a moderate growth in its tourist arrivals in the years 2020 to 2021.

This means that Santa Ana is still a viable tourist destination as the lockdown and restrictions eased up in Cagayan and the whole Region 2, Secretary Lambino said.

Consequently, CEZA believes that the agency is on the right track and is optimistic that once the crucial infrastructure projects are completed, it will significantly boost Cagayan Freeport’s contribution to the national economy. - with inputs from MICHELLE S. AGABIN