MANILA – A party-list representative on Thursday pushed for the continuation of the work-from-home arrangement for employees of business process outsourcing (BPO) companies in special economic zones.

ACT-CIS Rep. Niña Taduran urged the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) to reconsider its ultimatum requiring BPO workers to physically report to work by April 1.

Taduran noted that although BPOs in special economic zones are covered by Republic Act 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, requiring all registered companies to operate within the ecozones to enjoy tax incentives, incentives must still be available as long as the head office of a BPO firm remains within a Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)-administered building or facility.

“Furthermore, we have a Telecommuting law, which is effective for the entire country, and that includes the special economic zones,” she said.

Republic Act 11165 also known as the “Telecommuting Act” refers to a “work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.

“In addition, with the skyrocketing prices of petroleum products, which translate to increases in fare, basic commodities, etcetera, it is actually more practical to maintain the work from home scheme,” Taduran said.

“We have to understand that everything is not yet back to normal. Thus, the government must not insist on the pre-pandemic terms. If BPOs are forced to do this, we run the risk of losing these investors to our neighboring countries,” she added.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said the work from home (WFH) arrangement has proven to be effective to minimize health risks and prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) without hurting the economy.

"Even with the WFH arrangement, the Philippine economy was able to survive in the last two years, and thanks to the growing number of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, our economic activity is now more active than ever. We believe the WFH arrangement can sustain this momentum," she said.

Legarda said this remote setup would also help around 1.3 million BPO workers to cope with rising fuel prices and transportation costs, affording them the same mitigating opportunities given to other sectors affected by the current crises.

“Unfortunately, we now have other factors to consider aside from Covid-19: the unexpected oil price hike caused by the Russo-Ukrainian crisis which now affects the prices of our basic commodities, and the climate crisis which is expected to get even worse if we do not take drastic measures such as reducing our total carbon footprint,” she said.

The FIRB issued Resolution No. 19-21 on Aug. 2, 2021, allowing the WFH arrangement “not exceeding 90 percent of the total workforce” of registered IT-BPM enterprises until March 31 only.

The resolution also allowed registered business enterprises of the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector to continue implementing WFH arrangements without adversely affecting their fiscal incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law

Various business process outsourcing (BPO) companies belonging to the Alliance of Call Center Workers (ACW) said they are willing to give up fiscal incentives from the government, in exchange for continually adopting the WFH arrangement for their employees. (PNA)