Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

We thank the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – National Capital Region (PCCI-NCR) for inviting us to speak at the 29th Metro Manila Business Conference (MMBC). Anchored on an umbrella theme of “Innovation for Sustainable Entrepreneurship,” this year’s conference is designed to guide business owners in recognizing attendant risks and opportunities. This conference is timely as we enter a post-pandemic future where Smart Governance, Going Green, and Being Future-ready are expected to figure significantly.

In the aspect of “Digitalized Collaboration Models for Delivering Government Services,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is one with the government’s digitalization initiatives, which are divided into four sections—digitalization of government, businesses, industry, and people (or human capital). Through a whole-of-society approach, we can push for this digitalization movement and maximize the potential of the Philippines to be a future technological leader in Southeast Asia.

According to the 2021 Digital Report, the Philippines remained the top country in social media and internet usage worldwide. What’s more, e-commerce adoption in the Philippines grew from 70% in 2019 to 76% in 2020 and 80.2% in 2021.

In 2020, e-commerce came to our rescue during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when brick-and-mortar businesses were gravely affected by the community lockdowns. And e-commerce—through online retail, delivery services, online entertainment, digital services, telehealth, work from home arrangements, and digital payments—still continues to help sustain our economic activities up until this year.

Hence, it’s not surprising that we see an increasing number of online business registration. Based on DTI’s Business Name Registration Next Generation (BNRS Next Gen) System, the number of online businesses involved in retail trade jumped from 1,848 in January to March 2020 to 88,575 by the end of 2020. Presently, the total number of online business names registered for retail trade is around 105,159.

Making the most out of digital technologies, we have also elevated our thrust for promoting “ease of doing business” in the country. Business registration is now a couple of clicks away with our Central Business Portal (CBP). Likewise, filing and payment of taxes does not require queuing in your local Revenue District Office (RDO) with the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) Electronic Filing and Payment System (eFPS). On DTI’s part, we relaunched our BNRS Next Gen that saw registration process done within 8 minutes.

For this, we are grateful for the leadership of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) in implementing the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Act of 2018. This also follows the prime directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to “make long lines a thing of the past.”

Furthermore, DTI launched early this year the updated eCommerce Philippines 2022 Roadmap. We are giving new meaning to e-commerce, to mean easy commerce.  The objectives are simple: grow ecommerce by promoting more online sellers, and online buyers who will buy more frequently. We are promoting cashless transactions, and lowering logistics costs. To grow ecommerce, the roadmap shall focus on Market Access. Digitalization and Logistics integration, in short, MADALI.

The roadmap aims to (1) develop a cadre of digitally skilled workers to support the ecommerce sector, (2) increase the number of eCommerce enterprises to 1 million by 2022, and (3) increase ecommerce contribution to GDP to 5.5%.

Additionally, as our pandemic response for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), DTI initiated the Reboot Program to help small businesses take the first step forward to online business. DTI engaged the active participation of the private sector—the digital platforms, last mile delivery/logistics services, financial technology (fintech) companies, and training institutions—which provide assistance such as: training, waiving of onboarding fees, access to loans, and discounts. From 16 when we started in 2020, we now have 28 partners which continue to help us in the ecommerce goal.

Through the CTRL BIZ: REBOOT NOW project, we have assisted more than 25,000 entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs. Practitioners from the private sector tackled practical topics ranging from “Why should I take my business online?” or “how to scale up and automate your business for growth.” Another is the Pivot Embrace Technology (PET) Project that would aid those who lost jobs and employment because of the pandemic by helping them to upskill and reskill under a certification program.

DTI also shifted our approach on marketing and promotions of Philippine products.  We began to organize Digital Bagsakan Special Projects partnering with last mile delivery services such as Grab, Lalamove, and Mr. Speedy. These digital Bagsakan Projects assisted Fruit growers, Farmers’ and Social Coops, and MSMEs. What’s more, DTI promoted virtual trade fairs, digital stores, digital malls and facilitated the onboarding of MSMES in marketplace platforms such as Shopee, Lazada, and Shopinas.

We would also like to recognize our recent collaboration with your organization for your new affiliate, the PCCI Innovation Center. Congratulations and thank you to PCCI President Amb. Yujuico and the leaders in PCCI for spearheading this amazing project. I visited your facility when we did the MOU signing and let me say we were impressed with your facility, which we consider truly global. With this partnership, we can effectively accomplish the goals of our partnership, including providing Filipino entrepreneurs with more opportunities to learn about in-demand skills in emerging technologies. The latter includes artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, coding, big data analytics, internet of things (IoT), and the blockchain technology.

This is also in line with the Department’s thrust in our creation of the National AI Roadmap, signed last May. Under the research and development (R&D) dimension of the AI Roadmap, we are currently in the process of establishing the private sector-led National Center for AI Research (or N-CAIR), which is critical to our aspiration to be an “AI Center for Excellence” in the region. The N-CAIR will serve as the country’s shared hub for AI research that will be instrumental in making the Philippines an AI powerhouse. This will definitely help both the user industry sector as well as allow the country to develop thousands of data scientists, as they do the research work. And we see this as our next industry winner after the IT-BPM sector.

Likewise, just last July, DTI and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to collaborate in enhancing the skills of our people and prepare them for 4IR and the future economy. Through this partnership, along with the participation of other national government agencies, we launched the Philippine Skills Framework (PSF) Initiative, an inter-agency collaboration that would develop sector-specific skills frameworks to guide the country’s workers in enhancing their skills for particular job roles.

To conclude, as we emphasize the importance of public-private partnerships, we thank PCCI again for being a key DTI partner in the task of nation building. Let me also take this opportunity to emphasize that the national government remains committed to its lead role in the country’s digitalization initiatives, especially in e-commerce that generate jobs and employment for our people. Through our collective effort, we can embrace our digital destiny as well as build back better to a post-pandemic digital Philippines where our people can enjoy a more comfortable and greater quality of life as envisioned by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Maraming salamat po, at mabuhay po tayong lahat! ♦

Date of Release: 9 September 2021