Following President Duterte’s instruction to revive and to strengthen the country’s footwear industry, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and members of the Philippine Footwear Federation Inc. (PFFI) identified possible solutions to existing obstacles that hamper the shoe industry’s growth.


“Technological improvement remains an industry concern. While there are patrons who prefer manually produced shoes because of their durability, still, innovation is crucial for the shoe industry to flourish and expand,” Lopez said.


In a series of site visits on June 8, Lopez and officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) explored ways to level up current industry practices with the PFFI. For one, DTI already has a sustainable Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Project with PFFI that houses machines and equipment serving as common service facilities for efficient, quality and innovative production. 


Among the SSF projects is the High Value Custom-Made Footwear, which intends to capture a market that prefers custom-made shoes, featuring new methodologies in shoe engineering, footwear design and manufacturing. It also uses state-of-the-art scanner that automatically produces a 3D model of the foot in seconds for measuring and size estimation. 


“Small shoemakers take turns in using the equipment. They need to expand the capacity and add more and newer machines,” Lopez said.  


Within the compound where the SSF is located is DTI’s Negosyo Center-Marikina and the Philippine Footwear Academy that aims to produce job-ready workers for the Marikina footwear industry. The Academy is considered the first and only footwear school in Asean. 


Meanwhile, the trade chief guaranteed PFFI that DTI remains committed in supporting the Marikina shoe industry from the policy and program level that will improve access to raw materials and supply chain, as well as enjoin the government and private sectors to give preference to buying locally made shoes. 


Assistance on design creation through the Design Center of the Philippines up to provision of market access and promotion through the Go Lokal! stores in malls, national and international trade fairs and exhibitions and the internationally recognized Manila FAME will also be provided. 


Headed by its President Roger Py, PFFI is composed of footwear manufacturers, retailers, cooperatives and allied industries from Marikina, Laguna, Bulacan, San Mateo and Cebu, whose members belong to the sector of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). 


On the same day, Lopez visited production facilities of Gibi Shoes Manufacturing, Bristol Shoes and microenterprises, like Ruperta Enterprises, all of which are based in Marikina. He called on industry leaders to initiate the kind of entrepreneurship that is idea-based, demand-driven and innovation-led. Lopez also visited Marikina’s pride Rolando “Tatay Oly” Santos, the shoemaker, who gave President Duterte a pair of shoes as a gift, which the president wore during his international meetings with heads of state. Lopez learned the common sentiments of small Marikina shoemakers in terms of machines, shoe molds and working capital.  


Tatay Oly, who is currently borrowing from five to six loan sharks, got emotional when he was assured of working capital assistance from Duterte’s Pondo para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso, or the P3 microfinancing program.


The trade chief also talked to some of Marikina’s talented and hardworking designers and artisans, who also serve as trainers in the DTI’s SSF project for MSMEs aspiring to take part in reviving Marikina’s shoe industry. 


“The Filipino artisanship and craftsmanship in designs, plus the highly skilled, highly trainable workforce that showcase ingenuity despite stiffer market competition will help bring back the glory of Marikina as the country’s shoe capital,” he said. •