MAKATI CITY – In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry Competitiveness and Innovation Group (DTI-CIG) and with support from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has successfully spearheaded the Policy Forum on the Advancement of Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation of Industries in the Philippines last 21 July 2023 at the Makati Diamond Residences, gathering around 50 innovation leaders from the government, private sector, academe, and development partners.

The Forum fostered an open dialogue with renowned industry experts through a panel discussion. DTI CIG Undersecretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba, underscored the Philippines’ exceptional proficiency in servicification and highlighted the potential of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technologies in further enhancing this aspect, “We can link our services with manufacturing, agriculture, and others, especially with the presence of these new technologies which would really require a lot of digital skills, software applications development, etc., these are things and areas that the Philippines has a comparative advantage.”, she emphasized.

The panelists aligned with this perspective as they shed light on how I4.0 continuously shapes society. Mr. Arnel Cabungcal, Assistant Vice President for Manufacturing Operations Services and Technology of UNILAB, Inc., highlighted the profound impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “During the pandemic, through an emergency use authorization, the standard 8-year approval process of the vaccine was reduced to only 8 months, with the aid of AI”, he recounted.

Chief Operating Officer of Ionics-EMS Inc. Mr. Jay Chavez chimed in with his own experience of adopting smart manufacturing in the company’s operations and its impact on job placements. “With smart manufacturing increasing our production, we had to hire more people to do higher value tasks while remaining cost-effective”, he explained.

The importance of enabling policies also greatly surfaced through the discussion as Mr. Emmanuel Lazaro Estrada, Senior Vice President for Regulatory Development and Strategy of Globe Telecom, Inc., was quoted as saying that “policies should be practical and human-centered.”

Mr. Anders Isaksson, UNIDO Chief of the Capacity Development and Policy Advice Unit, supported this idea and reiterated the call for a needs-based approach. “Knowing what needs to be done is very important for defining policy areas and reducing policy uncertainties” he mentioned while also emphasizing the connection running from innovation to I4.0 to productivity growth and welfare enhancement. “The successful adoption of I4.0 banks on the implementation of the right policy mix. This mix should not only focus on pro-I4.0 policies but also on redistribution and compensation policies at the very design stage to reduce the costs of potential disruption and transition [due to I4.0]”, Mr. Isaksson added.

Crafting and institutionalizing such policies would require much effort from the government, according to Dr. Jamil Paolo S. Francisco, Asian Institute of Management’s Executive Director for Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness. “Government should help individuals, companies, and startups become more agile”, Dr. Francico opined. 

Supporting this, Mr. Melvin Jeffrey Chan, Vice President and Head for Enterprise Innovation, Business Development, and Consulting & Presales of PLDT Enterprise, zoomed in on the critical role of the National Innovation Council (NIC). “The NIC joined the forces of the brightest minds in the country, whether they are from the public or private sector, to drive things forward through the formulation of policies and building technologies,” he pointed out.

Apart from the enriching panel discussion, the forum also marked the culmination of a week-long workshop held in Pico De Loro, Batangas from 17 to 20 July 2023, which was participated by a roster of innovative policy and thought leaders from select government agencies. UNIDO Country Representative Engr. Teddy Monroy lauded this initiative for igniting the commitment of the participating agencies to this cause, characterizing I4.0 as “a game-changer as it triggers a productive shift bringing increased efficiency and transformation of the global landscape.”.

The Forum capped off with assurance and support from Dr. Joseph Capuno, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary for Investment Programming Group. He remarked, “Rest assured that the Philippine Government remains committed to embracing digital transformation and harnessing the power of technology to guide social and economic transformation as embodied in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.”

In collaboration with other development partners, The DTI and UNIDO aim to sustain the momentum and ongoing dialogue and remain dedicated to driving sustainable development through innovation. As part of this commitment, the participants will continue to gain practical experience through site visits to leading I4.0 companies, technology clusters, innovation agencies, think tanks, and business associations worldwide in the upcoming phase. ♦

Date of release: 26 July 2023