To mobilize, support, integrate, and harmonize public-private efforts towards taking full advantage of trade opportunities under the Philippines’ trade agreements, the Department of Trade and Industry Region 4-A, in partnership with the European Union- Trade Related Technical Assistance (EU-TRTA) Project 3, conducted the ASEAN/European Union-General System of Preferences Multistakeholder Briefing last recently at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Hotel, Ortigas, Quezon City.

DTI – Regional Operations Group Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya said that the CALABARZON Region, or the provinces composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, contributes greatly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, adding that these assets could help in trade opportunities.

“CALABARZON has the biggest population in the country and is the number one contributor in manufacturing and number two contributor in agriculture to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The region has so much resources and human resources. We only need to look at these opportunities and push ourselves to work harder,” Maglaya said.

Team Leader and Key Expert of the EU-TRTA 3 Dr. Florian A. Alburo explained that the project is intended to support the country in integrating into the global and regional trade and investment system. He added that the EU-TRTA 3 provides support to the Philippine government to help them understand what is going on in terms of accessing the world market.

“The Philippines has yet to fully be ready for the global markets. Because it is an archipelagic country, it does not have a full appreciation of borders unlike its neighboring countries. What we need to know is that there are lots of opportunities for trade upon crossing borders,” Alburo said.

According to Export Marketing Bureau Director Senen M. Perlada, participating in Fair Trade Agreements (FTAs) can maintain competitiveness, promote cross-border complementation, sustain inflow of investments, and provide mutual support on issues of common interest.

“CALABARZON is rich in agro-based goods, automotive products, electronics and electrical goods, fisheries, wood-based products, healthcare services, logistics services, and tourism, which are the Priority Integration Sectors (PIS) Goods Sector and PIS Services Sector. ASEAN plans to promote the goods and services industries as an integrated economy versus the rest of the world,” Perlada explained.

The Department encourages the country’s players and stakeholders to take full advantage of the integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and other free trade agreements (FTAs) that the Philippines has with its trading partners given that the local sectors are heavily engaged in regional value chains.

Perlada added that the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) provides for fair and equitable treatment; non-discriminatory treatment for compensation for losses arising from civil strife, riots etc.; free transfer of funds including capital, profits, dividends; and protection of investments. As economic activities becomes increasingly regional, ease in the transfer of funds from one country to another for a variety of purposes has become even more essential.

Association of Laguna Food Processors (ALAFOP) President Clarke S. Nebrao also shared how DTI helped their association through a food processing facility through the Shared Service Facility (SSF) program. The CALABARZON Food Solutions Hub (CFoSH) was acquired at a cost of PHP 16-million. It consists of advanced processing machineries and other ancillary equipment installed at the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) in Santa Cruz, Laguna.