BPOs push for hybrid setup amid surging oil prices

FILE PHOTO:  Filipino employees take calls from the US in a call center in Taguig City south of Manila, on December 2, 2011 in Manila, Philippines. Business process outsourcing (BPO) centers want hybrid setup due to surging prices. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Filipino employees take calls from the US in a call center in Taguig City south of Manila, on December 2, 2011 in Manila, Philippines. Business process outsourcing (BPO) centers want hybrid setup due to surging prices. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is seeking a hybrid office setup, citing need for more time than the scheduled return to offices by the start of April.

The Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) earlier rejected the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (PEZA) petition to extend work-from-home (WFH) arrangements for registered information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) firms.

Amidst skyrocketing fuel prices and subsequent fare hikes, FIRB allowed WFH arrangements for 90% of workers in IT-BPM firms in economic zones (ecozones) until only the end of March.

Jack Madrid, president of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), said that firms will comply with the government's order, but still seek a longer time for transition back to onsite operations.

"It was difficult to move personnel and equipment from onsite to home, it will also be equally difficult to move [back] over 1 million [workers], to move onsite. We need a longer runway," Madrid said in an interview.

The IT-BPM sector also reportedly pushes for a hybrid setup in the long run as there is an overwhelming preference for employees for remote setup.

According to Madrid, the sector created 23,000 new jobs in 2020 and 100,000 new jobs in 2021.

"Over the longer haul, certainly some amendment needs to be made that will take into account that the nature of the IT-BPM industry’s work is different and should be considered," he said.

"We've been an economic pillar for the country for over 2 decades now, generating 1.4 million jobs and almost $34 billion and keeping all our employees here in the country. They don’t have to leave. By having this hybrid work arrangement, we're actually supporting the government’s move to expand into the countryside."

Madrid said the preference for work from home even extends beyond BPO.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary and FIRB chairman Carlos Dominguez III earlier said that the “WFH arrangement is only a time-bound temporary measure adopted during the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He added that because of the increased vaccination rate of Filipinos nationwide, companies can implement safety measures for the physical reporting of employees, including those working in the IT-BPM firms operating within ecozones and freeports.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.

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