IFEX: Next Food Asia Launch
May 24 2019, World Trade Center

Good morning everyone. It’s so great to be here again at CITEM for an exciting event. IFEX has been a much-awaited event because it really showcases a lot of exciting new products, food, innovative products produced by micro SMEs, the sector that our President would really like to empower. Because he believes that when you empower MSMEs, you empower the nation. And that is the commitment of the Duterte administration, to make sure that the bottom of the pyramid is uplifted.

So with that, allow me to dispense with the greetings. But allow me to say a special thank you to Atty. Betty Medialdea for gracing this event. I know you’re very busy with your full-time work in the private sector, doubling also as the head of the Cabinet spouse group. Now representing Madam Honeylet Avencena, who I must also give credit to for being active in attending almost all our launches, especially launces, trade fairs, OTOP Philippine Hubs, representing the President.

The President also attends our activities from time to time as well. I remember our MSME Summit when the President was there. It is really his priority to help this sector. Maybe that’s why he thought of me to join his administration in the DTI.

I would also like to thank our private sector partners, the PHILFOODEX in helping us. And of course all the Excellencies, Mayors, our partners from the different agencies. Congratulations also to CITEM and the Regional Operations Group, helping all these micro SMEs. Our Regional Directors and USec. Zeny Maglaya and all the provincial directors here. And the foreign counterparts, the commercial attaches from the PTIC—Philippine Trade and Investment Centers.

I’d like to give special thanks also to the exhibitors who are here with us. The 600+, above 50 would be foreign exhibitors. I’d like to welcome also the very important foreign buyers. Acknowledgment also to our partner from Singapore, the celebrity chef, she’s back there. She’s, I think, the godmother of the Singapore culinary ecosystem. Welcome to our IFEX show.

When we have events like these, I really feel the empowerment given to micro SMEs. The DTI provides 360-degree support from entrepreneurship training, mindset change, how to differentiate you product, product development, financial literacy, and the works.

We also have microlending through our program with the President, the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso or P3 Program. Some equipment, Shared Service Facility assistance will give greater productivity to groups of farmers and cooperatives so they can further process their produce and convert them into higher-value-adding products.

When the products are there already, the problem is, where do we sell it? How do we market it? So platforms like this are really key to giving exposure to the products of micro SMEs. But we should take note also that not everyone can participate. It’s important that micro SMEs are assisted to level-up their products so they can deserve to be here at the expo. Otherwise, they will be featured in smaller trade fairs. But in IFEX, we feature those that continue to upgrade their products. These are really the products that we can boast as the next exciting food coming from the Philippines.

There are premium seven products being promoted. We’re happy to note that some indigenous products long been in the country being used by our chefs in the culinary scene, the likes of turmeric, yellow ginger. Even ube, used to be referred to as purple yam, I think is now known worldwide as ube. Everywhere in Europe and the US, you can hear ube.

Even in the future, the so-called bagoong or shrimp paste, which is really an acquired taste. It’s a favorite side condiment of Filipinos. It’s an acquired taste, like blue cheese. But it does magic to your food when you eat it with other viands. I think it’s being noticed now, in Europe as well. I don’t what they call it, but here it’s called bagoong. It really gives a unique taste profile. These are the things that we really like to showcase because we believe that these are the future. Promoting these products would give more opportunities to micro SMEs in the country.

Empowerment is really important. We want to bring growth to micro SMEs. Otherwise, they will probably remain where they are. Our intent is to give them opportunities. Locally, I always boast of the Go Lokal! project. It’s like the preparatory stage of these marketing platform that we have. Imagine micro SMEs who normally don’t have access to mainstream markets which are the malls, would now be given access exposure to the malls every day. When they are exposed and discovered by foreign buyers, then that is the key now to their growth. These are really steps to make businesses reach the next level and maximize their full potential.

Now is really a good time to be involved in this micro SME development, in doing business in the country. We are on a good run in terms of economic growth. It’s a good time to business. In the Duterte administration, we have accomplished much stronger growth rate, growing by 6% continuously in 15 quarters. I did not count the last quarter because the budget was delayed in approval. But that’s just one quarter, we shall catch up and finish the year back at 6% growth. Not everywhere in the world that you can see a 6% growth rate. We are the envy of many countries, every time we are outside. The second-fastest growing economy in this part of the world.

Unemployment is going down 5.2% that used to be 6%. In the growth that we’re having, consumption has gone up recently, 6.3%. The more important thing is the preparation for future growth, this would be in terms of infrastructure. Investment here has been experiencing double-digit growth rates. Again, except for this quarter because of the budget challenge. But as we speak right now, the Economic Development Cluster, which I missed, is talking about how to catch up in the rest of the year so we can still achieve double-digit growth in construction.

You know construction joins manufacturing in the industry index. And industry growth rate has also been performing higher than years ago, we are now hitting 5-6% growth rate, when in the past we were just hitting 3%. It was always the services sector, they’ve been growing in 5% in the recent years and that has been sustained. The industry would have to grow and create more jobs.

This afternoon, we will be launching the RAPID Project, rural agriculture and industry interlinked. This will make sure that as we develop the micro SME sector, all the requirements from the agriculture sector would have to be met and we have to also improve the productivity and yield of the agriculture sector. So the requirements on mango, coconut, coffee, cacao, etc. would be produced with better yielding and higher productivity for the farmers which will result to increase in rural income and help solve poverty. This will also make sure that their products will be value-added in processing in the industry and manufacturing side. We will be launching that project this afternoon. It’s a project assisted by IFAD and we’re excited with that because it’s giving importance to a strong agri-industrial link. And when you look at the food businesses around here, these are products of a strong agri-industrial link. From processing of these agri products to food ingredients.

Again, let me just congratulate everyone. This is really an exciting event that’s being pushed a lot by DTI, CITEM, and being supported by President Duterte because he knows that by doing this, we are empowering small guys in the country.

Once again thank you and enjoy discovering the next food Philippines.