Rona Leigh Bueno, head of the INvestment Office under the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte. (Photo by Leilanie Adriano)

LAOAG CITY – The year 2022 has been relatively a good year for Ilocos Norte province as businesses recovered from the prolonged pandemic, with the prospects of even more investments pouring into this northern gateway of Luzon next year.

Rona Leigh Bueno, head of the INvest office under the Ilocos Norte government, on Tuesday noted Ilocos Norte’s strengthened partnership with the Board of Investments (BOI) under the Department of Industry (DTI).

By next year, Bueno said Ilocos Norte is ready to welcome more businesses ranging from food manufacturing and processing, tourism, and creative industries, business process outsourcing, renewable energy as well as responsible mining and quarrying among others.

“With our very hands-on governor who continues to attract the right investors for Ilocos Norte, we are now in the process of assisting them to facilitate their moving in the province,” said Bueno in an interview.

In support of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s earlier pronouncement to make the Philippines a “top investment destination,” Ilocos Norte is currently offering various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to investors.

This includes exemptions from paying real property taxes, and incentivizing enterprises that engage in environment-friendly practices as well as those that employ locals.

The provincial Investment Office likewise provides pre-investment and investor servicing programs to help new and existing businesses. Among the services offered are the provision of relevant market information, site visits to potential investment hubs, and assistance in identifying properties for lease.

The Marcos administration also seeks to open up more opportunities for high-value investments, with a focus on broad-based job creation and expansion of digital infrastructure, research, and development.

Among the ongoing big-ticket projects in the province are the operation of a large-scale river restoration project which commenced earlier this month. Phase 1 of the project will last for three years.

Meanwhile, ACEN Corp., the energy platform of the Ayala Group has signed subscription agreements with subsidiaries Bayog Wind Power Corp. (BWPC) and the Pagudpud Wind Power Group in Ilocos Norte.

Under the agreement, the company is pouring an additional PHP900 million in investments into its two subsidiaries to support the ongoing construction of a wind power project in the province.

“The subscription will be used by BWPC to fund continuing works for the construction of the 160-megawatt (MW) Pagudpud wind project located in Barangays Balaoi and Caunayan, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte,” said the company in a statement.

To date, the company has about 4,000 MW of attributable capacity in the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Australia, with a renewable share of 87 percent, which is among the highest in the region.

On the other hand, more Chinese enterprises are looking at Ilocos Norte as an investment destination following the visit of Ambassador Huang Xilian to the province earlier this year.

The Chinese ambassador acknowledged Ilocos Norte's tremendous potential for investment.

"We believe that China’s new development will bring extensive opportunities to the international communities, including the Philippines, needless to say, our practical cooperation will embrace great prospects," he said.

Two years ago, the state-run Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City hosted the establishment of a Special Economic Zone Institute (Sezi) which is transforming the province into a “smart community,” enabling more Ilocanos to learn multi-level skills.

The establishment of Sezi, in partnership with state universities and colleges (SUC) like MMSU, is one of the biggest projects of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority to provide skills training and research to make every Filipino a world-class worker. (PNA)