Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the business community, friends and food enthusiasts, magandang umaga po sa inyo and welcome to the IFEX Digital Expo!

First, let me thank the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Trade Promotions Group (TPG) and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) for their continuing efforts to boost the Philippine food export sectors through initiatives such as this. This year’s online edition features the theme “Salu-Salo Tayo!” and we all look forward to viewing and tasting the best of Philippine food products and flavors.

As we all know, the Philippine food sector and local businesses at large have suffered from the impact of COVID-19. Let me assure you that DTI has remained committed to address these adverse impacts.

Our efforts toward effectively responding to the global pandemic have been guided by our strategic goals; namely, enabling an environment conducive to business, improving access to finance, enhancing management and labor capacities, improving access to technology and innovation, and providing access to the market.

More simply, the DTI is here for our homegrown brands and businesses every step of the way through the pillars of Support, Education, and Accessibility.

For one, we have issued circulars extending the validity of Philippine Standard (PS) Quality and Safety Certification Marks, granting a 30-day grace period at the onset of the pandemic for both residential and commercial rents, and increasing the operating capacities of dine-in food establishments.

The SB Corporation now also has two iterations of the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES Program, which provide loan caps of up to P200,000 for micro enterprises and P500,000 for small enterprises at zero interest rates, no collateral requirements, and with grace period.

We also have the Livelihood Seeding Program-Negosyo Para sa Barangay or LSP-NPB which provides a package of livelihood kits and business advisory assistance and services, amounting to at least P5,000 up to P8,000 to MSMEs.

Moreover, the Survival and Recovery (SURE) COVID-19 offers working capital loans to agri-fishery MSMEs as well as emergency and production requirements assistance to Marginalized Small Farmers and Fishers (MSFF).

This is meant to enable them to continue operations amid the quarantine. The financing program was designed in support of the DA’s “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra COVID-19” or the “Plant Plant Plant Program,” which aims to increase farm productivity and ensure food sufficiency during the COVID-19 emergency situation.

For those who may lack the equipment necessary for the business, we have the Shared Service Facilities or SSF Program, which provides the machinery, equipment, tools, systems, accessories as well as skills and knowledge, under a shared system.

Specifically, this provision should help target beneficiaries increase their production capacities and improve product quality, resulting in increased markets, increased sales, and further contributing to job generation.  It is a public-private partnership initiative being implemented through cooperators who can provide sustainable facilities to house the machinery and equipment and make these accessible to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

We have also leveraged digital tools at our disposal. We have piloted the Online National Food Fair in Shopee.PH and Shopee mobile app. This pilot online trade fair project featured 29 participants including MSME exhibitors. At the comfort of your homes, you can now shop and order healthy snacks, vegetarian and gourmet food, processed food products and various Filipino delicacies from our very own Pinoy MSMEs. This pilot online trade fair is a joint project of the DTI – TPG Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion (BDTP), DTI E-Commerce Office, DTI Regional Operations Group (ROG) and Shopee Philippines.

MSMEs may also take advantage of website developing services from Easybuilder.Pro. A partner of the DTI, Easybuilder is waiving subscription fees for MSMEs. In terms of digital training, CTRL + BIZ: Reboot Now! offers a series of free webinars for MSMEs who need to transform their business digitally. Other enablers across the entire E-Commerce ecosystem are also willing to provide their expertise and experiences on how to take advantage of the digital space.

Of course, CITEM, the DTI’s export promotions agency, contributed greatly in our new-normal initiatives, particularly in the digital sphere. Knowledge-sharing sessions became an avenue to help MSMEs during the pandemic by providing them with the latest and most relevant information to keep abreast of best practices and to adapt to new market demands.

IFEX Philippines Digital Expo is an excellent demonstration of how CITEM has adapted well to the new trade show formats. We have gone beyond the traditional toward digital trade shows or even hybrid shows, which use both digital and physical components.

These initiatives also signify DTI’s commitment to hurdle pandemic-related obstacles, so that buyers and exporters can look forward to quality products and services. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte echoed this concern for MSMEs during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) when he described MSMEs as being vital to “economic activity, job creation, and poverty reduction”. Thus, you can be confident of the President’s full support as he always has the MSMEs in his heart.

With this, I highly encourage our food entrepreneurs to enjoy this exhibition and take advantage of the business matching and networking opportunities, knowledge sharing sessions, and other engaging online experiences. Let’s make this the premier sourcing platform for Asia’s next food products, flavors, and ideas.

Together, let us show the world an image of the Philippines as a top sourcing destination of quality food products derived from fresh, healthy, organic and natural ingredients.

Maraming salamat. Virtually, magsalu-salo tayo!  ♦

Date of Release: 23 September 2021