9 March 2021 via Recorded Message

Ladies and gentlemen, a good day to you all.

We wish to offer our best wishes to the exhibitors and visitors of the ASEAN International Furniture and Furnishings Show (AIFFS) VX 2021, and we hope that everyone is keeping safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We also laud the organizers of this event, the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council (AFIC), for adapting to the “New Normal” by holding its first unified virtual show.

Before anything else, we would like to cite the 10 Philippine brands present at this digital edition of the AIFFS. These brands, which represent the best Philippine craftsmanship in the home and lifestyle sector, are FAME+ exhibitors of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). Launched last October, FAME+ is CITEM’s digital trade platform to give its 200 local exhibitors an online presence in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As seen last year, the economic effects of the pandemic were inescapable, with supply chain disruptions and reduced orders affecting the global manufacturing sector—including the furniture industry. The Philippines did not escape unscathed with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reporting our furniture industry’s contribution to manufacturing GVA was at 0.4% in 2020 from 0.5% in 2019. The pandemic also didn’t help our furniture exports, going down to USD 499.014M in 2020 from USD 550.64M in 2019. But even before the pandemic, the industry’s contribution to manufacturing GVA and exports were already declining. One possible reason cited for the pre-pandemic decline was the loss of overseas buyers, forcing the industry to rely on the domestic market even as it continued to look for new markets abroad.

Despite this, the Philippine furniture industry still has huge potential, given that it is one of the most artistic industries in the country. The creativity and industriousness of the Filipino is the cornerstone of the longstanding success of this industry and highlights the importance of creative design. As such, local furniture companies—tapping these qualities of Filipinos in manufacturing high-quality furniture—has made the Philippines the “Milan of Asia.” It should be noted that this labor-intensive industry—of which 98% are categorized as small and medium enterprises (SMEs)—provides for 2.1M indirect workers nationwide and supplies business to 5.4M in its supply chain.

On our part, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) remains committed to supporting the furniture industry as one of our priority sectors for export promotion under creative and design-driven industries. We need to increase the domestic capacity of furniture companies so as to strengthen their export capability. Thus, we need to push for more investments in this industry, technology that would advance higher-value designs, and new materials to be used.

That’s why we have support programs for furniture companies that can be accessed through the DTI regional offices. We also have the Regional Interactive Platform for Philippine Exporters (or RIPPLES) program to prepare local companies to compete in global markets. Moreover, the Design Center of the Philippines (DCP) is helping companies with product development and design, like a Hybrid Bamboo Product Development Initiative promoting sustainability or a Technology Training Workshop for natural fabric weavers. Of course, CITEM’s well-regarded Manila FAME provides local companies a platform to access both domestic and international markets.

DTI is also supporting the industry through the Design Advisory Council (DAC), which is crafting a national strategy to enhance product design in the country to boost innovation and economic growth. We are likewise preparing to make the creative industries the next driver of the Philippine economy through the development of the Philippine Creative Economy Agenda. Lastly, our Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy (i³S) aims to grow globally competitive and innovative industries—of which the furniture industry is included—with innovation at the front and center of our industrial policies and programs.

With the pandemic forcing more people at home, furniture companies need to adapt to the developing trends, like multi-functional furniture for people working at home. They also need to ensure they have an online presence so that the younger consumers can make big-ticket purchases online. One trend furniture-makers can take advantage of is the use of bamboo-based materials and reengineered bamboo. However, we need to increase the supply of bamboo in the country to address the requirements of the furniture industry. Fortunately, we can rely on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) National Greening Program to ensure a continuous supply with the planting of bamboo in bamboo-friendly areas.    

In closing, DTI envisions a stronger and more competitive Philippine furniture industry that will contribute to accelerating the growth of the ASEAN furniture industry globally in the post-COVID future. To achieve this, we will do our part in enabling and empowering the industry because this will also create more jobs and employment for our people. This, in turn, will give them a more comfortable and higher quality of life as promised by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Thank you and mabuhay po tayong lahat.

Date of Release: 9 March 2021