Ladies and gentlemen, magandang araw po sa inyong lahat 

Thank you very much for the kind introduction. We would like to greet a good morning to all who’ve taken the time to join us for this online opening ceremony of our first-ever Virtual National Trade Fair. As this is also the first major event of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for 2021, we would also like to take this opportunity to greet everyone, “A very Happy New Year!” 

Sa kabila po ng lahat ng pagsubok at paghihirap na hinarap natin noong 2020, sinasalubong natin ang taon na ito ng may panibagong pag-asa para sa ating mahal na bansa at mga kababayan. Last year ponalagpasan natin ang isang global pandemic, isang volcanic eruption, pati na rin ang mga mapangwasak na bagyo at lindol. Sa nagdaang 12 (labindalawangbuwantayo pong mga Pilipino ay pinatunayan hindi lamang ang ating kahanga-hangang “resilience”, kung hindi pati na rin ang ating tinatawag na bouncebackability.” Ito ang abilidad natin na kayanin ang matinding paghihirap sa paghahanap ng silver linings at hidden blessings sa gitna ng mga pagsubok. 

Unfortunately, Filipino businesses were among the hardest hit by the economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, our Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) struggled to sustain their operations and continue providing employment for their workers. This showed the need for our MSMEs to redefine their business models and be more innovative so as to be able to adapt to the economic challenges wrought by the pandemic.  

But even as we slowly reopened our economy last year that brought hopeful signs of recovery, we are also encouraged by the brighter prospects that 2021 is expected to bring. On one hand, our GDP has recovered a bit to -11.5% in the third quarter of last year after dropping to -16.9% in the second quarter, which can be attributed to the easing of community quarantine lockdowns. Our unemployment rate has also gone down to 8.7% in October 2020 from a high 17.7% in April, again, dahil po sa height ng lockdown. Further, our exports have recovered to a positive 3% growth in November 2020 after dropping by half in April.  

On the other hand, forecasts by economic planning agencies as well as international financial organizations see a strong recovery for the Philippines. We project that this year’s GDP is expected to grow by positive 6.5% or even higher, at par or better than pre-pandemic levels. Pero marami pa ring challenges. Yung mga binanggit kong numero only show that we still haven’t reached the pre-pandemic levels. Noong pre-pandemic, tayo po ay 2nd fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. Still with challenges, we aim to further reopening our economy. 

Last year also showed us the need to adapt and shift to the “New Normal.” With the acceleration of digitalization and e-commerce, we learned to shop for our everyday essentials from online stores, pay via cashless transactions, and so on. In response, DTI pivoted by bringing our programs and projects online not only to support MSMEs’ shift to digital but also help them adjust during the pandemic. These range from our Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Online offering mentoring on how to access capital and market, to the CTRL+BIZ Reboot Now! Webinar series teaching our MSMEs to transform themselves into digital businesses.   

We’ve also pushed for the digital transformation of our MSMEs by onboarding them to e-commerce platforms, digital events, and permanent digital malls/stores. We’ve also set up online channels for our Go Lokalas well as OTOP (or One Town, One Product) PH Hub programs, na ngayon ay ginawan na rin po ng digital. 

Ang opening po ng unang Virtual National Trade Fair ngayong araw ay kabilang sa paglipat ng DTI sa digital, kagaya ng ating annual National Trade Fair na ngayon ay matatagpuan na rin online. Sa mga nagdaang taon, ang ating National Trade Fair po ay nagkaloob ng oportunidad para sa ating MSMEs na makapagtinda ng kanilang mga produkto sa major retailers at institutional buyers, pati na rin sa mga mamimili, para sila po ay ma-discover. Mula 2016 hanggang 2019, ang mga nakaraang national Trade Fairs ay nag-generate ng Php236M in revenue para sa kanilang exhibitors. 

As the first of its kind that will feature the best Philippine products from 100 of our MSMEs in a virtual environment, today’s Virtual National Trade Fair is in line with DTI’s efforts to innovate and explore new solutions to help MSMEs during the pandemic. What’s more, our MSMEs can also learn from the webinar series and virtual sessions available at the event. This is keeping with our goal to create innovative, competitive, job-generating, inclusive, and empowered entrepreneurs.  

To conclude, we would like to thank our Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion of the Trade Promotions Group (BDTP-TPG), as well as Regional Operations Group (ROG) for your efforts to assist our MSMEs in transitioning to the digital space. We would also commend all the MSMEs participating in this First Virtual National Trade Fair for taking another exciting step in their journey to success. Having survived the worst of times last year, we believe it is now time to look forward to the best of times this year.  

As we experience this virtual trade fair together, let us consider what marketing expert Steven Jeffes said: “Innovation is the unrelenting drive to break the status quo and develop anew where few have dared to go.”   

Sana po ay patuloy tayong magtulungan sa pagbuo ng isang “Better Normal” sa 2021 kung saan ang ating mga mamamayan ay matatamasa ang isang mas maunlad, mas komportable, at mas maginhawang buhay gaya ng ipinangako ni President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. 

Sa atin pong mga kapwa-kawani ng gobyerno, exhibitors, at mga kaibigan sa media na nakilahok sa opening ng Virtual National Trade Fair ngayong arawnagpapasalamat po kami sa inyong suporta at muling binabati kayo ng Happy New Year! 

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat!

Date of Release: 27 January 2021