Cebu BPOs are requesting an exemption from on-site work rules, citing continued typhoon impact

Through Arjay L Balinbin, Elderly reporter

CEBU’s IT and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) branch is seeking an exemption from a government order to returnfice work as of April 1st and notes that the region continues to be afinfected by Typhoon Odette in December.

“If they really want to make it nationwide, maybe they can exempt Cebu because of the typhoon,” said Buddy R. Villasis, executive director of the Cebu IT-BPM Organization (CIB.O). business world in a phone interview last week.

The Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB), which regulates incentive-eligible industries, particularly those operating in economic zones, has declined to extend an old order that allows the industry to do most of its work with homeworkers take care of. The denial of the extension effectively means the industry’s workforce must return to on-site work from April 1.

Mr. Villasis said Cebu’s IT-BPM staff of about 200,000 remained scattered throughout Mindanao, Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Negros, to which staff with roots in those places have returned during the pandemic.

Government policy has focused on increasing the proportion of on-site work to spur the recovery of the transportation industry and small businesses that depend on office workers’ spending.

“Is the city ready? Is the transport sector ready? Are all telecommunications facilities fully restored? Are all guesthouses ready to accommodate the thousands of people who will return to Cebu? These should be taken into account,” said Mr Villasis.

Cebu, he said, will still need about two months to prepare for the returning workers, with tasks ahead including preparationfiand enable their employees to look for accommodation.

Finance Secretary and FIRB Chairman Carlos G. Dominguez III said Wednesday that the board, at a Feb. 21 meeting, rejected a petition from the Philippine Economic Zones Authority (PEZA) to expand home work regulations for workers in IT-BPM companies registering for incentives are.

Mr. Dominguez said the increased vaccination rate is rolling over “safe measures for the physical reporting of employees, including those working in IT BPM.” fiCompanies operating in economic zones (ecozones) and free ports.”

Home working arrangements should only be temporary in response to the pandemic, he said. The IT-BPM sector’s entitlement to funding is tied to the use of premises in economic zones.

Asked for comment, PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza said in a phone message, “We are negotiating” the FIRB ruling and preparing “a reconsideration letter.”

“Companies are not opposed to going back to sites fully, but not anytime soon. It will be some time before everyone is back on the ground,” Mr Villasis said.

CIB.O members met with officials from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF)-Cebu and other governments officials on Thursday to “advocate Cebu to delay full implementation of return.”fice order, otherwise there will be problems,” he added.

“We got our electricity and telecoms (connections) back fifive days afeethe the typhoon, but not all. Losses reached 500 million pesetas a day with no operations. So that’s a big headache,” noted Mr. Villasis.

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