Filipinos’ artisanship and craftsmanship in modern designs remain the strength of handicraft and furniture industries, according to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, in his remarks during the 2nd Philippine Homestyle Congress on 23 September.

During his engagement with the Philippine Chamber of Handicraft Exporters and Artisans, Inc. (PCHEAI), the Association of Handicraft Exporters (AHE) and the Chamber of Furniture Industry of the Philippines (CFIP), Sec. Lopez urged industry players to bank on the “highly-skilled, highly-trainable workforce that showcases Filipinos’ ingenuity” amidst stiffer market competition. 

He also assured stakeholders of handicraft and furniture industries that the government continues to spearhead initiatives to help them excel at local and international levels.

The trade chief noted that both industries are dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), a sector, which is a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte’s inclusive growth agenda, as well as of DTI’s Trabaho at Negosyo thrust.

“We are committed to infuse an entrepreneurial mindset among MSMEs that will trigger the kind of entrepreneurship that is idea-based, demand-driven and innovation-led,” Sec. Lopez said.

He outlined government initiatives, through the Philippine Trade and Investment Centers (PTICs), the Design Center of the Philippines (DCP) and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), on the handicraft industry including strengthening trade activities, technology sharing and networking with local and foreign businessmen and other design-related institutions.

He also said that e-commerce through online shops is the new platform to promote MSME products. Countries with high e-commerce penetration among consumers include the UK, Germany, Korea, USA, France, UAE, Australia and Canada, where another PTIC will be opened in October.

“Some of our home grown brands are even recognized as trendsetters, alongside big names in the world’s design capitals,” declared Sec. Lopez, adding that Filipinos’ innovative ideas blended well with companies’ confidence to experiment and offer something new in the market.

The Design for Exports Program and the Product Specialist Programs are also initiatives that promote innovation, enhance collaboration among stakeholders, and develop new perspectives, including through coaching, knowledge sharing sessions and other activities that aim at honing skills to create products for the global market.

On the furniture industry, DTI, through the Board of Investments, has assisted in capacity-building and development projects, such as the Homestyle Forward: International Trends Workshop for SMEs and Design Students, which prepares SMEs in the industry to be technically-capable in creating products attuned to international trends.

Sec. Lopez also mentioned that the implementation of the roadmap for the furniture industry since 2014 has resulted to more technical assistance projects, including granting of shared service facility to specific areas, launching of information material on the industry, and initiatives on product development and design education.

“We should bank on our naturally gifted workforce, composed of great talents, who are capable of staging Filipino products to the world,” Sec. Lopez concluded.