Press Release
November 13, 2010


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago lauded reports stating the Philippines is fast overtaking India as the world's largest BPO industry for voice-based customer support and sales.

Santiago was in India last 4 to 6 November 2010 to attend the Tibet Support Groups Conference and meet with the Dalai Lama. The senator is spearheading the first Tibet Support Group in the Philippines, upon the request of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, India.

While in India, Santiago read reports in Indian newspapers, among them The Economic Times, expressing concern that the Indian call center industry is losing US-based clients in favor of the PH industry.

According to the news reports, PH is expected to post $5.7 billion revenues in voice-based customer support and sales for 2010. This is higher than India's expected revenues of $5.58 billion this year. Experts also say that the PH $9.5 billion BPO industry will overtake India's $12.4 billion industry in five years.

PH's "better affinity with the American culture, lack of competing industries for skilled workforce, and higher tax incentives" are among the top reasons for the unprecedented rise of the country's BPO industry.

"Curiously, the Senate in the Fifteenth Congress has yet to file any bill for the promotion of the call center industry and the protection of its workforce. I urge my colleagues in both houses of Congress to formulate laws supporting this booming sunshine industry," Santiago said.

Santiago also said she will file a bill next week to jumpstart legislative support for the BPO industry, especially its workers.

BPO companies in the country enjoy income tax holidays from four to eight years, and a five percent tax rate on gross income after that time period. If situated in IT Parks and eco-zones, these companies also enjoy tax and duty exemption on imported capital equipment.

The boom in the BPO industry in return gives the government more incentives to improve literacy rates, increase students' proficiency in the English language, and promote information technology education. It has also decreased the rate of unemployment in the past years.

As these companies enjoy these benefits, Santiago stressed that the rights of call center employees should be safeguarded.

"Legislators should study how our laws can adapt to this relatively new industry. Amendments in the Labor Code or an entirely different and separate law should be considered so as to protect the rights of call center agents because of their unique work environment," Santiago said.

The senator said her office has been receiving complaints alleging rampant and stark labor violations in the call center industry. These include contractualization, union busting, unreasonable metric evaluations, compelled overtime and holiday work, and long working hours, among others. Complaints also noted the high attrition rate in the BPO industry.

"We must balance the legitimate business interests of BPO companies with the labor rights of employees. I have heard that most call center agents do not stay too long in one company either because the work becomes more and more unreasonable every year or there is no professional growth in the company," Santiago said.

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