MARIVELES, Bataan, Aug. 2 — The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) is encouraging registered locators of the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) to maximize the competitive advantages that the European Union Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU GSP+) offers, which could further help them expand their businesses in the Philippines and boost their presence in the EU market.

Under the EU GSP+ program of the European Union, the Philippines can enjoy zero duties on its exports to the European countries.

“The number of local firms that are tapping the benefits of EU GSP+ are increasing, from 66 percent in 2015 to 71 percent in 2016. The surge in utilization rate showed that more industries are finding the benefits of the scheme. This could also become the competitive edge of the FAB locators,” AFAB chairman and administrator Emmanuel D. Pineda said.

Pineda said that exploring the benefits that the EU GSP+ scheme brings will also help the AFAB attract more investors to the freeport.

He also said that for the past several years, the AFAB has been actively collaborating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for promotion activities to invite more foreign investors to put up their businesses here in the Philippines, especially in the FAB.

“This is because the Philippines is currently the only country in ASEAN that is enrolled in the EU GSP+ scheme. And this is an advantage that you, our FAB locators can avail and enjoy,” Pineda told the locators.

For his part, deputy administrator for operations Alewijn Aidan K. Ong assured the locators that the AFAB, the DTI and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will assist the locators in navigating the rules of origin and requirements for the EU GSP+ to help them hurdle other barriers.

Meanwhile, Jollan Margaret Llaneza of the Bureau of Internal Trade Relations (BITR) noted that exporters of textile, garments, apparels, and shoes from the FAB could also avail of duty-free exports.

The EU member countries charge a regular tax rate of 16.9 percent for exporters that are not from the GSP+ members.

The Philippines’ enrollment to the GSP+ gave the FAB, which has a cluster of manufacturing plants producing high-end of textile, garments, apparels and shoes, a competitive advantage.

The FAB’s top exporter to the EU market is Dong-in Group of Companies, which has seven manufacturing plants; the Almatech Mfg. Corp., D.I. Dawn Patrol Mfg. Corp., Dong-In Entech K-1, Inc., Dong-In Sunbirds Corp., East-Cam Tech Corp., Edge Soft Good Solution, Inc. and Mountaineering Instruments Corp.

The Korean conglomerate exports sporting bags, child carriers and strollers to Europe. About 20 percent of its products are exported to selected EU member countries every year.

The FAB is the fashion-manufacturing hub of the Philippines, as it possesses a cluster of companies producing high-end brands of garments, apparel, shoes and accessories, like bags, jewelries, among others. (Ernie B. Esconde/PNA)