CALABARZON FACTORIES SHUT DOWN: Eruption disrupts engine of economy

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    Livelihood at stake. A fish pen within Taal Lake in Barangay Aya in Talisay, Batangas is one of the first to experience the toll of the eruption of Taal Volcano. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)
    Livelihood at stake. A fish pen within Taal Lake in Barangay Aya in Talisay, Batangas is one of the first to experience the toll of the eruption of Taal Volcano. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)

    Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government will take stock of the full economic costs of the eruption of Taal Volcano.

    This developed as several electronics and automotive companies located in Calabarzon shut down operations yesterday following the eruption.

    Dominguez in a statement said the Southern and Central Luzon as well as National Capital Region are some of the heftier pistons of the country’s economic engine.

    “We will do what is necessary to get areas affected by this natural disaster up and running as fast as possible,” Dominguez said.

    Rommel Gutierrez, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi), confirmed the shutdown of three Campi members, including the three biggest ones, Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. (TMP), Mitsubishi Motor Philippines Corp. and Honda Cars Philippines.

    All are located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna which was blanketed with ash fall starting Sunday.

    Dan Lachica, president of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI), said some factories in Calabarzon and in Clark closed as a precautionary measure.

    Lachica said it is too soon to make an estimate of the costs of the disruption in the electronics industry, which relies on on-time delivery of orders.

    But Lachica raised concern over shipment disruptions due to airport closures and suspension of government offices.

    “We hope that the ash fall and threat of eruption end soon,” Lachica said in a text message.

    Like SEIPI, Campi is still assessing the situation to ensure production will catch up, according to Gutierrez, also first vice president of TMP.

    TMP is the largest automotive assembler in the country.

    In his statement, Dominguez said Region IV-A or Calabarzon accounted for 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2018.

    Metro Manila retained a share of 36 percent to total output, bringing the combined share of these two regions to nearly 53 percent.

    Central Luzon, which was similarly affected by ash fall, is also sizable at 9 percent.

    “Based on our estimates, our country loses 1 to 2 percent of our gross domestic product due to natural disasters, especially from typhoons, every year,” Dominguez said.

    He said quick estimates of the damage are still being generated by relevant national agencies and local governments, but that the impact would depend on the type of eruption.

    Charito Plaza, director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) which administers the ecozones, said there are companies which have stopped but most are still operating.

    Plaza did not give details but said PEZA military reservists and disaster trams are monitoring their jurisdiction.

    The Department of Agriculture (DA), through its Calabarzon regional field office (RFO) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), is also closely monitoring the situation in the region after the eruption.

    “We have instructed both Calabarzon DA-RFO director Arnel de Mesa and Calabarzon BFAR director Sammy Malvas to provide immediate updates on the risk areas, affected farmers, fisherfolk and their families and appropriate assistance,” said DA Secretary William Dar.

    Dar said the agency, through the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council, is also ready to provide emergency loan assistance to affected farmers and fisherfolk worth P25,000 with zero interest and payable in three years under the Survival and Recovery loan program.

    Dar said affected farmers and fisherfolk have the option to borrow a higher amount under the recently launched Micro and Small Agribusiness Program, assuring that there are ready funds and existing conduits in Batangas.

    The National Food Authority (NFA) also assured it has enough rice stocks in areas affected by the ash fall.

    Judy Carol Dansal, NFA administrator, said operation centers in the central and field offices have been activated immediately and are open on 24-hour basis.

    Calabarzon has a total rice equivalent of 1,930,000 bags, Metro Manila has 197,000 bags, while Central Luzon has 1,963,000 bags. (I. Isip and J. Macapagal)