The Philippines, in collaboration with Chinese Taipei, co-hosted the “APEC Policy Dialogue on MSME Marketplace & O2O Forum” last 28-29 November 2016 in Boracay, Aklan, which aims to promote micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to seize the O2O business opportunity in the trend of digital economy.

The forum is the 6th serial event of “APEC SME O2O Initiative” co-proposed by Chinese Taipei and the Philippines in 2015. It aims to promote the application of O2O business models and encouraging MSMEs to invest in innovation.

“We must provide solutions not only to address current challenges we’re faced with, but also to solve problems we didn’t even know we had. And in order to do that we must do one thing – we must innovate.” DTI Regional Operations Group (ROG) Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya said.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), electronic commerce helps local businesses access global value chains. It enables them to have a presence in foreign markets through exports and imports. This process leads to higher productivity because of more efficient use of technology, heightened competition, and greater consumer choice; and creates jobs as firms start to expand.

The Asia-Pacific region has the largest market share in the digital economy, accounting for 33% of total market scale but only a few SMEs in APEC are currently taking full advantage of new digital opportunities. The role of government in supporting more SMEs to turn these opportunities into business will be a key driving force for economic growth.

“It’s becoming increasingly important for government and the private sector to work together in making a business landscape where MSMEs can freely trade across borders simply with one’s gadgets connected to the world,” Maglaya said.

The Policy Dialogue is focused not only in developing O2O startups but also in aligning this effort to the Iloilo Initiative to establish an APEC MSME Marketplace, which is aimed at improving cross-border trade in the region.

Over 70 stakeholders including Google, Global Innovation Forum and other participants from APEC economies attended the forum and participated in the discussion focusing on the current digital opportunities and challenges of MSMEs in the globalization. Some key players in the Philippine E-commerce industry were also present in the event including the Digital Commerce Association of the Philippines (DCOM), Intercommerce Network Services, Eureka of Unionbank, and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT).

Five out of seven local startups who participated in the event came from QBO Innovation Hub, a new innovation hub for startups under the DTI Negosyo Center Plus model operating at the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) in Makati City.