By the Department of Trade and Industry – Industry Development Group
BY the end of this year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will mark a milestone as the region transitions into a single market and production base and formally be known as the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
The AEC poses many challenges but also myriad opportunities. Asean represents a total market of some 600 million people of which about 83 percent live outside of the Philippines. This translates to at least 500 million new potential buyers and consumers of Philippine products.
The advent of the AEC is an opportune time for Philippine industries and enterprises to expand and seize the benefits of increased market access. But, to survive and flourish, local enterprises, whatever their size, have to step up and prepare to participate in regional and global value chains. And we have already seen marked success in this area as the share of Asean to Philippines’ total trade with the world has been steadily increasing from 15.8% in 2002, 18.6% in 2006, to 19.1% in 2013. In addition, the Philippines also actively integrates and increases its presence in the global economy via free trade agreements with Asean dialogue partners which include Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Japan and India, which has further expanded the country’s market to about 3 billion people. The share of Aean and Asean FTAs to Philippines’ total trade has increased from 44.9% in 2002 to 55.9% in 2013.
The Philippines’ participation in Asean integration has allowed the country to have access to intermediate and capital goods at quality and lower priced consumer goods complementary from the region. These products include electrical and electronic equipment, machinery, ores, mineral fuels and vehicles and vehicle parts. Free flow of raw material inputs and component parts is critical in ensuring Philippines’ integration in global value chains and our attractiveness as a destination for investments that see Asean not only as a single common market but also as an integrated regional production base. Even as we are discussing AEC 2015, the fact is that since 2010 duties on [99.7%] of products in the Asean were already eliminated. (Particularly among the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam were given until 2018 to eliminate their tariffs.)
Likewise, regional economic integration is essential to services sector since it has led to job gains in the Philippines and will translate to further enhanced production capacity. Overall, a recent joint study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates that the AEC could expand the country’s GDP by 7.5 per cent by 2025 and lead to a net gain of 3.1 million jobs.
(Based on 2014 ILO-ADB joint study “ASEAN Community 2015: Managing integration for better jobs and shared prosperity.”)
As the world around us brings down barriers and welcomes the march of trade, it may not be the best decision to park on the side and watch our neighbors keep their economic engine on drive mode and their foot on the gas pedal. Consider this: For years, consumer spending has kept the Philippine economy growing but it has yet to bring us to the tipping point of attaining exponential growth.
For this to happen, Manufacturing will have to be key — driving growth through process innovation and product development, gaining an edge in price and quality to earn a place in regional and global value chains, leading to increased production supported by intensified promotion for both the domestic and export market.
The Role of MSMEs
A key feature of the ASEAN Economic Community is that it seeks to promote equitable economic development. For this to be realized, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will have to play a key and essential role.
In the Philippines, like the rest of ASEAN, MSMEs constitute the bulk of business and commercial establishments. MSMEs, by their very nature, lend themselves well to the current business model of fragmented production and supply networks and chains. It is time to harness their potential to be high value, contributing members of an ASEAN production network.
Toward this end, the DTI has allocated resources to support and empower MSMEs throughout the various regions so they can be integrated with the mainstream of manufacturing, production and services that a global production chain requires. The following are some of DTI’s major programs in this regard:
• Shared Service Facilities (SSFs) – This flagship program for MSME development enhances their competitiveness by providing Shared Service Facilities that provide community based enterprises with common access to machinery, equipment and tools to improve product quality and increase productivity. As of December 2014, 853 SSFs have been established nationwide, serving 64,373 beneficiaries.
• SME Roving Academy (SMERA) – Another significant intervention is the provision of training support through the SME Roving Academy (SMERA), a continuous learning program to help MSMEs become competitive in the domestic and international markets. In 2014, a total of 1,405 seminars have been conducted, benefitting 59,586 MSMEs.
The recently enacted Go Negosyo Act (R.A. 10644) has also boosted the DTI’s bid to institutionalize support for MSMEs. With the establishment of Negosyo Centers in all provinces, cities and municipalities in the country, it will be much easier for entrepreneurs to register and start up businesses, as well as gain access to sources of financing. For 2015, we are targeting the establishment of 100 Negosyo Centers nationwide.
Government services will also be brought closer to micro enterprises as the Go Negosyo Act also updated the Barangay Micro Business Enterprises (BMBEs) Act of 2002. The cumbersome registration process required to avail of major incentives is now a thing of the past as the DTI is now the agency designated to register BMBEs. Applicants will need only to accomplish a one-page registration form and expect to receive the Certificate of Authority to operate. This should encourage entrepreneurship and generate jobs and income in many small communities.
Overall, we should persevere in establishing an enabling environment to support and spur development in the country’s various regions and support this with sustained investments in education and skills training to enhance the comparative edge provided by our young, talented and highly trainable population.
Manufacturing and Regional Roadmaps
The Philippines launched in 2012 the Industry Roadmap Project that will culminate in a Comprehensive National Industrial Strategy (CNIS) as provided under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016.
To date, some 30 sectoral roadmaps have been crafted and are at various stages of development. Through the roadmaps, the Philippines identified specific policy interventions in the supply chain that the industries need. The roadmaps provide a platform for trade strategy and likewise serve as critical input for the Investment Priorities Plan.
With these initiatives, the Philippines is able to develop more coherent and aligned policies and positions for industry competitiveness and trade policy. These in turn boost the country’s investment and trade promotions strategies.
We know that we are in the right direction as these strategies have shown that Manufacturing has been driving the country’s economic growth in recent years. In 2013, it registered a double digit growth in 2013 of 10.3% from 5.4 % in 2012. In the first half of 2014, it posted an 8.8% growth. Philippine manufacturing is on the upswing and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
To sustain our work, regional roadmaps are needed to complement the various Industry roadmaps that guide the National Industrial Strategy. We have been meeting with stakeholders across the country, encouraging the regions to work on their regional roadmaps. They will need to take into account three main considerations:
First, the road to industrial upgrading necessitates the linking of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. We are more than capable of moving up the value chain of agribusiness and food manufacturing and compete with the products from our neighbors in the regional and global markets. Our task is to ensure that the gaps in the agribusiness supply chain are securely filled and stakeholders in both Agriculture and Industry interact as interdependent components of a production cluster.
Second is the imperative of proper coordination between the public and private sectors — within the region, between and among regions, and with their national counterparts. Because the agribusiness value chain traverses the islands of our archipelago, we should continuously find ways to facilitate production networks despite our geographic circumstances. More importantly, we have to ensure that what we are doing at the regional level is consistent with our national thrust and that our national programs are localized for effective implementation.
Third, we have to foster synergy between the Academe and Research Institutions and Industry. The experience of other countries that have successfully upgraded their industries show how critical the collaboration between knowledge centers and businesses is in human resource development and innovation.
All these flow from the realization that our regions constitute the linchpin in our country’s drive to develop a globally competitive Philippine manufacturing sector by 2030.
Now, more than ever, the Philippines is well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits of regional integration. We are one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, which in turn is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. From 2010 to 2013, our GDP grew at an average of 6.3 percent—a remarkable increase from the 4.3 percent average recorded for 2006 to 2009. And, even when faced with calamities and other challenges, the economy sustained its robust performance by growing at 5.8 percent over the first three quarters of 2014. Growth since 2010 has been more industry- and investment-driven, providing a solid complement to the economic contributions of a large consumer base and stable inflow of remittance.
We are confident of the long-term sustainability of our economic growth. The Philippines is home to the 12th largest population in the world. With Filipinos on average about 23 years old, we are at the verge of a demographic “sweet spot” where majority of our population would be entering the workforce and experiencing higher incomes. This year, the Philippine economy is also recognized as one of biggest beneficiaries of the continued decline in fuel prices. Much work still remains to be done. The advent of the AEC should encourage us to work together — improving processes, developing and adapting better technology, and training our people — and create high value products and services that can compete in the world market. I am confident that our cumulative efforts will promote a dynamic collaboration among regional stakeholders that will enhance the country’s competitiveness and help us achieve our national ideal of inclusive growth.