18 February 2021 via Recorded Message

Ladies and gentlemen, magandang araw sa inyong lahat. 

Thank you to the Amazon team for inviting us to address the many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participating in today’s Amazon Southeast Asia Online Seller Summit.  

We have always regarded SMEs as one of the key economic drivers of economies around the world. In the Philippines, our Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) serve as our economy’s backbone, and we firmly believe that they should be enabled to pivot digitally so that they can become more innovative and competitive. 

Presently, COVID-19 has changed the business landscape and shaken up the global economy. Local companies have been confronted with closure and loss of profit, while many of our countrymen have lost their jobs. However, this pandemic has also accelerated digitalization and e-commerce as our people utilized online and delivery services because of the restrictions imposed by the community quarantine lockdown.  

What’s more, Filipinos faced adversity with resiliency by setting up their own businesses. Last year, we registered more than 900,000 total business registrations, higher than the more than 600,000 registered in 2019. Total business registrations for this year have already hit more than 108,000. Meanwhile, online retailers jumped from 1,700 in January to March 15 last year—before we instituted the quarantine lockdown—to more than 86,000 in December 2020. And as of January 2021, there are already 1,539 business name registrations for online retail this year.  

But even as our entrepreneurs have adjusted their business models to the “New Normal” of the pandemic, they still need to be “smarter entrepreneurs” in order to compete in the global market. This means our entrepreneurs should know how to differentiate themselves from their competitors, while also offering innovative and relevant solutions to present-day issues in society. To help them, the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been providing assistance even before the pandemic through our MSME development programs.  

DTI also believes that digitalization is a great equalizer for businesses. That’s why we’ve been offering e-commerce programs to support the digitalization of our MSMEs. These projects and programs—which have been adapted to the “New Normal”—aim to engender business resiliency in our MSMEs.  

For example, our CTRL+BIZ Reboot Now! Webinar series teaches our MSMEs to transform themselves into digital businesses. Likewise, our “Pivot…Embrace Technology” (PET) Project helps to upskill and reskill those whose jobs were lost during the pandemic. Furthermore, DTI has partnered with UnionBank, one of the Philippines’ universal banks, with the Sari Sari Linker to digitize “sari-sari” stores, or the small general merchandise stores in local neighborhoods. 

We have also been onboarding our MSMEs online through our Virtual National Trade Fairthe online channel of the OTOP (or One Town, One Product) PH Hub, as well as other e-commerce platforms. This will mainstream the products of MSMEs, while establishing their online presence and helping them generate sales despite the lockdown restrictions.  

Our Negosyo Centers, which offers MSMEs business advisory assistance and services, have also gone online—as well as our Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program, which teaches entrepreneurs how to access capital and market. 

Lastly, DTI has been collaborating with Amazon to support our MSMEs to expand their market. Last year, there were 140 sellers on Amazon based in the Philippines, and our friends in Amazon have been working with us to get in touch with more local businesses.   

In closing, DTI’s digitalization programs will surely help with the boom of enterprises that happened last year and is still happening now. More importantly, these new MSMEs can aid in our country’s recovery, especially as our economy gradually reopens and more businesses restart their operations.  

We hope that as our SMEs learn from their counterparts in the region, SMEs from other countries will see how the Philippines under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte survived the pandemic, thanks to digitalization. We once again thank Amazon for providing this opportunity for various SMEs across the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia exchange best practices and innovative business ideas. 

Finally, we urge everyone here to work together in building a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient post-COVID future. As we create this “Better Normal,” we can give all our people a chance at a better and more comfortable quality of life.  

Thank you very much and mabuhay tayong lahat. 

Date of Release: 18 February 2021