Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined the call of the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) firms to suspend the return-to-office (RTO) order by the Fiscals Incentives Review Board (FIRB).
While the intent to stimulate economic activities in the retail industries in the eco-zones is understandable, De Lima maintained that the request of the IT-BPM firms and employees to suspend RTO are not unreasonable.
“There is no guarantee that the return-to-office (RTO) order will redound to a net positive gain for our economy. The industry stands to lose resources and trained employees if there is an abrupt shift in the working arrangements. In the short term, there is no guarantee that the other businesses in the eco-zones will prosper during an ill-planned transition,” she said.
“Mandating the return to office of 1.4 million information technology and BPO workers on the basis of economic and tax reasons disregards the issue of health and safety of employees,” the companies said in seeking the suspension of the April 1 RTO order.
The government, through the Department of Finance, said nothing is preventing the IT-BPM firms from instituting a remote work arrangement for their employees. However, the DOF said these companies must give up their fiscal incentives if their office is located in an ecozone because these tax breaks are meant to be enjoyed inside an ecozone.
In Resolution No, 19-21 issued on September 2021, the FIRB allowed work-from-home setups for up to 90 percent of BPO firms’ workers until March 31 this year amid the persisting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the FIRB denied the request of BPO firms to extend work-from-home arrangements beyond the end of March.
In supporting the call of IT-BPM firms to suspend the RTO order, De Lima pointed out that the pandemic is not over and that while many places in the country are in Alert Level 1, “the danger of the pandemic is still there.”
“We are seeing this in other countries who have drastically scaled back on their Covid-19 restrictions. Many IT-BPM employees stay at home to protect their household members who have co-morbidities and a high risk of contracting possibly fatal Covid-19 infections,” she said.
Likewise, De Lima said that the country is in the middle of a transportation crisis. “The price of petroleum products is at record highs and many of our transport service providers are contemplating on cutting back or stopping altogether because the cost of operations is not sustainable.”
Additionally, De Lima stressed that the WFH arrangement has been proposed to help decongest the traffic by reducing the density of commuting public.
“Under a WFH arrangement of an IT-BPM firm, productivity is increased due to the removal of inefficiencies brought about by terrible traffic conditions,” she said.
De Lima said she hopes that the plea of IT-BPM firms would be heard considering that “the IT-BPM industry was one of our lifelines during the worst days of the pandemic.”
“IT-BPM firms invested in WFH arrangements for their employees, and it worked for everyone concerned. They were able to observe the health protocols implemented by the IATF. Their employees kept their jobs. And the economy lived to fight another day. This was not an insignificant achievement,” she said.