18K workers in Bataan displaced

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    The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), a center for the manufacture for export of apparel and non-apparel goods, experienced a 23.7- percent decline in exports this year through August as major locators report lower transactions due to the new coronavirus disease 2019.

    Emmanuel Pineda, administrator of the AFAB, said none of the 93 locators have closed down but 14 had to either shut down temporarily or downscale operations, affecting 18,000 workers.

    The workers were either sent on leave or put on rotation.

    Before the imposition of the community quarantine in March, Pineda said there were nearly 44,000 workers in AFAB but now only about 26,000 workers are reporting.

    “The enterprises are getting by despite being significantly affected by the pandemic due to lower number of orders as most of the foreign countries they are exporting to, such as the US, are still in some sort of lockdown,” Pineda said.

    But Pineda is optimistic that once orders increase, workers who have been sent on leave will be recalled while those that are just reporting on certain days can go back to work full time.

    Exports of AFAB locators reached $351 million from January to August, down from $460 million in the same period last year.

    Pineda said it is hard to make any projection on exports for the year due to the pandemic.

    Pineda said the Fashion Focus Group (FCF Manufacturing. Corp. and FPF Corp.) which makes Coach bags and Luen Thai Group are both affected by the decreased orders and lower demand for their products.

    Luen Thai owns Desktop Bags Philippines Inc. , DLX Bags Philippines Inc. and Boast Inc., a shoe manufacturer.

    Pineda said none of these companies are shifting their capacities to other production sites in the region.

    AFAB said it rolled out its business continuity plan (BCP) is aligned with the BCPs of the enterprises to ensure operations are sustained and workers are protected in the process.

    It prioritizes projects that aim to assist FAB enterprises and the displaced workers.

    AFAB is also working closely with partners to help locators shift to manufacturing other products that experience high demand like personal protective equipment . It is also pursuing livelihood projects for displaced workers.

    Pineda said one of AFAB locators, Medtecs Group, which produces surgical face masks, has found benefits in the rising demand for its products. (I.Isip)