DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 August) — More multinational Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies operating in India are planning to relocate their operations to Davao City as India continues to grapple with a surge of cases driven by the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Xavier Eric Manalastas, president of the BPO Association of Davao, told Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Friday, that due to the ongoing surge in India, existing BPO firms operating in Davao City noted an increase in the demand for additional workforce.
Considered as one of the country’s BPO hubs, Manalastas said Davao City has around 50 BPO companies with a total number of workers estimated at 45,000 to 50,000.
India is the “toughest competition of the Philippines” as a BPO destination in the world, according to him.
“Because of what happened to India, some of the work has shifted to the Philippines. We hope it did not have to happen that it caused the demand to go up,” he said.
He added that the industry has received inquiries from prospective investors who are setting their sights on Davao as an area for relocation and expansion of their services that will drive the growth of the industry this year.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries that want to relocate to Davao. They want to move their operations to the Philippines because of the effect of the pandemic… The industry will be able to grow,” he said.
But even Davao City is seeing a rising trend in the number of Delta cases. From the first confirmed Delta case reported last July 25, Davao City now has a total of four out of the six cases of this variant in the region.
Genome sequencing results released by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) in Diliman last August 5 showed that 16 cases of Alpha variant or B.1.1.7 and 33 cases of Beta variant or B.1.351 were detected in the region.
Of these, Davao City reported six Alpha and 21 Beta; Davao del Norte, six Alpha and 12 Beta; Davao de Oro, one Alpha; and Davao Oriental, three Alpha. To date, the region has a total of 64 Alpha and 161 Beta, which originally surfaced in the UK and South Africa, respectively.
Manalastas said the demand for jobs is expected to grow further within the current semester, particularly in the last quarter.
He added that the growth of the industry must not be measured only by the size of the office but also by the number of workers in the BPO companies.
“Right now, BPO companies are already adopting blended or hybrid-type-of-work. Not everybody is required to work on site, so you can be employed in a BPO company and still enjoy the benefit of a full-time employee – all the benefits –and yet be able to work at home,” Manalastas said.
He said half of the employees would be working on site and half of them work online from home.
Manalastas said the association has drafted guidelines to avoid transmission of the COVID-19 infection in their workplace, among them putting up of their own contact-tracing teams and voluntarily enforcing “granular” lockdowns within their offices if there are infected workers.
The company’s in-house contact-tracing teams are required to submit weekly reports to the local government, he added.
He said companies can identify the specific part of the building where the infection occurs. Instead of the entire building on lockdown, that specific area will be put under granular lockdown, according to him.
“We should not wait for the government to come and advise us to go on lockdown. We should enforce a granular voluntary lockdown already. We probably don’t have to shut down the entire building because we can identify which floor is exposed. For example, if you have identified the third floor, then you have to lockdown the entire third floor right away,” he said.
In June, Dr. Ashley Lopez, head of the City Health Office, said three major BPO companies were put on lockdown due to the clustering of COVID-19 cases. The names of these companies were not disclosed.
As of August 6, DOH-Davao reported 56,343 cases with 6,602 active, 47,863 recoveries, and 1,878 deaths.
Out of the total cases, Davao City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mindanao, logged 31,419 cases with 2,898 active, 31,419 recoveries and 1,060 deaths. Davao de Oro tallied 4,361 cases, Davao del Norte with 10,786, Davao del Sur with 4,777, Davao Occidental with 1,182, and Davao Oriental with 3,818. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)