By Germelina A. Lacorte
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, the Philippines — More call-center companies might relocate to the regions as the strong peso forces them to look for a cheaper pool of English-proficient workers outside Metro Manila to cut down on labor cost, trade officials said today.

Lou Pasawa, city director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said he expected this to happen now that the value of the peso nears 45 to the dollar, forcing call-center and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies to cut down on cost by relocating or expanding their existing operations to the provinces.

“Some companies earlier told me they will leave Metro Manila if they can realize a 20 percent savings in Davao,” Pasawa said. “But that was before the exchange rate went down by 40 percent.”

Now that the peso has strengthened against the dollar, he added, call centers may be thinking about relocating or expanding to areas outside of Metro Manila, where their operations are largely concentrated.

Pasawa confirmed plans of the New York-based BPO Sutherland Global Services to put up a 1,000-seat call center in Davao CIty. If plans push through, he said, Sutherland, which has operations in Makati and Clark, will be the sixth call-center company to set up operations here.

“Sutherland has already made its decision. It will set up operations in the city within three to six months time,” Pasawa said.

The BPO company has been hunting for a building in the city that is accredited with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority to set up their operations. Putting up their operations in PEZA-accredited building will allow them to enjoy duty free importation of capital goods and the hiring of foreign nationals without violating Philippine laws.

Except for the Damosa information technology park in Lanang, other IT-ready buildings in Davao City, like the SM City and the NCCC building, still have pending PEZA accreditation.

According to Pasawa, the expansions and relocation of more companies here will provide additional opportunities for jobseekers in Davao.

Earlier, the information-technology cluster of the Regional Development Council (RDC) forecast over one billion pesos in IT investments in Southern Mindanao by the year 2010. This is projected to generate 16,000 jobs.

Most IT industries are largely concentrated in Metro Manila, Cebu and Clark. (Germelina A. Lacorte/

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