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Sec. Katrina Ponce Enrile’s First Year Leading CEZA

On June 7, 2023, Secretary Katrina Ponce Enrile took the helm as the new Administrator and CEO of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). With a rich background in corporate success, she has propelled CEZA towards modernization, economic resilience, good governance, and sustainable development.

Sec. Enrile’s vision, dubbed “Future-Proofing CEZA,” laid the groundwork for restructuring the organization, boosting support facilities, and attracting investments. This bold initiative aims to unlock vast economic and employment opportunities in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) while safeguarding against potential drawbacks.

Understanding that change begins from within, Enrile’s restructuring efforts focused on maximizing productivity and efficiency. Her commitment to good governance and transparency, coupled with a drive for sustainable development, underscores her leadership ethos.

Just one year into her tenure, Enrile’s impact is unmistakable. CEZA has become a champion of environmental stewardship, enforcing strict compliance with environmental laws, spearheading waste management and clean-up drives, and collaborating on various green initiatives. This holistic approach highlights her dedication to preserving the CSEZFP ecosystem.

As a key player in anti-money laundering efforts, CEZA achieved 100% compliance among its covered entities, including gaming operators and support service providers. This feat, praised by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), aligns with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s goal to remove the Philippines from the Financial Action Task Force’s Grey List.

CEZA has rolled out the “CEZA Interactive Gaming Rules and Regulations 2023” and the “CEZA Offshore Financial Technology License Rules and Regulations.” Integration with the Fiscal Incentives Registration and Monitoring System (FIRMS) streamlines business operations, and the upcoming Central Audit System for fintech and gaming will further enhance regulatory oversight.

Port Irene is undergoing upgrades to accommodate larger vessels, and elevators are being installed in the CEZA Corporate and Commercial Centers. Plans for a new CEZA Data Center Building are underway, and the main office is relocating to Makati City for better client accessibility.

Strategic partnerships are driving CEZA’s connectivity and infrastructure expansion. Notable projects include a world-class Communications Critical Infrastructure by Now Group and a township development with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD). A new international airport in Sta. Ana, Cagayan is also in the works.

In a bid to promote sustainable energy, CEZA has teamed up with Guangxi SPIC Overseas (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. for a 5-megawatt solar power project and Westfield Resources, LLC for a 10-megawatt liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant.

CEZA’s engagement with local communities is pivotal. Through community services and roles in environmental stewardship and tourism, CEZA uplifts socio-economic status and promotes responsible tourism, ensuring that development benefits all stakeholders.

Sec. Enrile’s proactive marketing efforts have showcased CEZA’s competitive edge. She has participated in foreign delegations, industry events, and investor meetings, putting CEZA on the global map. Highlights include attending Sigma Asia 2023 and 2024, SBC Barcelona, ICE London 2024, and Money 20/20 in Bangkok.

Hosting the US Business Executives for National Security and participating in the United States Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific Business Forum have further strengthened Philippine-US ties.

Reflecting on her first year, Enrile has demonstrated outstanding leadership in steering CEZA’s growth, modernization, and sustainable development. Her vision and achievements pave the way for CEZA to become a beacon of progress and a premier investment destination in the Asia-Pacific Region.

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