With more than 25,000 workers back to work at The Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB), Administrator Emmanuel Pineda disclosed that the current surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province prompted them to be even more vigilant in the implementation of health and safety protocols within the Freeport zone to ensure the protection of its employees against the spread of Coronavirus.
Pineda said that since the imposition of the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) last July 1, 77 out of 97 locators are already back to work. “The safety measures that we have implemented even before the opening of these companies are still being observed in the strictest possible compliance and more,” he assured. He said, “prior to reopening of the companies, the locators had to be inspected by the management of FAB to ensure safety of their workers. Once a company signifies that they want to resume operation, they inform us and we require them to undergo an inspection assessment of their facility.”
FAB’s Incident Management Team (IMT) determines how many workers can be allowed without compromising the physical distancing requirement. With a 4.26 square meter clearance for each worker to allow social distancing, the management estimated a total allowable workforce of only 36,501. “We make sure that they have established triage and holding areas and screening points upon entry to make sure that they were able to observe the monitoring or scanning of temperature, body temperature. That’s our way of adhering to the guidelines of IATF to prevent spread of COVID- 19,” he said.
Pineda said FAB is no stranger to adherence to IATF protocols since there have been locator-companies inside the Freeport who never stopped operations. “Since our locator companies are mostly export-oriented and BPOs, even during the MECQ, they were allowed to operate up to 50% of their workforce capacity. We have here a locator classified under the essential and medical products. They did not stop the operation. In fact, they actually expanded their operations to address the very high demand for face masks,” he added.
Response to COVID Cases
The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan has recorded a total of nine confirmed cases, three of which are active cases while six have already recovered. After a worker tested positive for COVID-19, AFAB has immediately reoriented all enterprises to conduct contact-tracing and advised those who are in the list of close contacts to quarantine at home. The safety officer then reported the list to the Municipal Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (MESU) and to the AFAB management for coordination. As an offshoot, AFAB has also allowed requests from companies for disinfection. Afterwhich, the companies will be subjected to re-inspection to ensure that (1) they followed the set occupational health and safety standards; (2) there is physical distancing; (3) and there is available basic health paraphernalia such as soap and disinfectants.
Opportunities at FAB despite the pandemic
Pineda is very optimistic about the prospects for the province once the planned Bataan-Cavite Bridge is completed in a few years. He said, “Bataan will be at the center of three most dynamic regions in the country and will give investors in Bataan access to almost 40 million population for their workforce and will definitely open itself up to more investment opportunities. Not only that, Bataan will have access to almost everything – entertainment, the national offices. I feel quite sure that Bataan will be the new silicon alley of the world when the Bridge is already built,” he said. Pineda also expressed high hopes for future investments in FAB with the recent amendment of the AFAP charter. “We can easily come up with new areas for expansion of Freeport Area of Bataan. So, what we’re looking at is we can have flexibility, especially with the cooperation of the local government units.”
President Rodrigo Duterte signed RA 11453, An Act Further Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), into law last August 30, 2019. Last June 17, AFAB Administrator Emmanuel Pineda met with Abucay Vice Mayor Ruben Tagle and Abucay Multipurpose Cooperative representatives where they discussed opportunities in the possible FAB expansion area in Abucay. Currently, FAB is still on the lookout for more expansion areas for more investment opportunities
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