3 December 2020 via Recorded Message

Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) would like to thank the speakers, panelists and distinguished guests who will be sharing their precious time, knowledge, and expertise in support of this event. We would also like to recognize the participants who took their time to be present as our country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s National Export Congress is the culminating event of the week-long celebration of the National Exporters Week (NEW). More importantly, this event confers the highest recognition to the men and women of the export community through the Top Filipino Exporters of 2019. Your efforts bring not only glory and honor to our country by producing world-class products, but by bringing much needed revenue to our economy.

Last year, we talked about “Driving Exports through Digital Transformation” to discuss the dynamic transformation of our economy—particularly the export sector—in the digital era.  We highlighted the need for all businesses, including the export sector, to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or 4IR) to help propel and boost exports.

With the present pandemic, the importance of last year’s message is doubly important as the pandemic not only ignited a global health crisis but also rocked the world economy by changing the way we work and how we do business. As we deal with our daily lives and adjust to the “New Normal” that is testing our country’s resilience and flexibility, we also have to move forward as one nation to build a “Better Normal” in the post-COVID future.

Thus, this year’s theme—“Digitalization Boost: Invigorating Exports in the New Normal”—is timely as we will see how the business sector, particularly exporters, has gone digital during the pandemic.

We have seen how this global health crisis has not only facilitated but forced the government and private sector to pursue programs of innovation and digitalization. This crisis has underlined that going digital is the best and only solution during the pandemic, and that we should seize the opportunity that it offers.

That’s why this event will look at how successful businesses and exporters leveraged on their digital transformation strategies and activities, fostered their innovations through the development of new systems, and improved their current digital tools. Moreover, we want to know what they think the future holds for them. We will also discuss the government’s own strategies to fast-track the implementation of this transformation.

With the pandemic, digitalization is now at the center of today’s economic development while also amplifying the need to quickly adopt new technologies and technological advancements. This has likewise underscored the pressing need for business and government to adapt to these changes.

A recent report by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) underscored the importance of the rapid adoption of digital technologies to help our country not only overcome the impact of the pandemic but also recover. Furthermore, this will help us achieve the vision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines becoming a middle-class society that is free from poverty.

What’s more, businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases before the coming of COVID-19 have now scaled their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks. This was confirmed by a recent report by McKinsey & Company that revealed a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies by businesses to reduce face-to-face interactions and safeguard customer and employee health and well-being. These digital technologies include consumer-facing applications such as grocery and food delivery services, as well as applications for business-to-business e-commerce and video conferencing.

The human capital side also needs to be future-proof with business graduates prepared to work as future business analysts and business intelligence practitioners. The Linkedln 2020 Emerging Jobs Report revealed that the digital economy is driving emerging jobs in the country, including software engineers and developers who are critical for businesses wanting to take the next digital step. In addition, the list of jobs include: robotics engineers; cybersecurity specialists; customer success specialists; full stack engineers; dev-ops engineers; data engineers; java script developers; and cloud engineers. These jobs will be essential in the future of big-data analytics, cloud computing, and e-commerce.

Presently, there are a number of digital platforms for every kind of business and new opportunities for jobseekers—especially millennials, who are considered to be tech-savvy. Businesses need to embrace technology and upgrade training programs to equip their workers with the best skills to keep up with the digital transformation. With the right steps and actions, our businesses and government can take this as the opportunity to build an innovative, more tech-savvy future for the country.

While the Philippine economy has been severely affected by the pandemic, the country can return to a solid growth and development trajectory if we enable the economy to recover by efficiently managing risks. This means safely allowing the economy to open up further to help our people recover their sources of income, which would put our country back on its solid growth and development trajectory.

We’ve already seen signs of recovery with our GDP slowly improving from negative 16.5% in the 2nd quarter of this year to negative 11.5% in the 3rd quarter. What’s more, our unemployment rate has eased to 10% last July from 17.7% in April, which was at the height of the lockdown.

Following the strong pick-up in international merchandise trade since June, our Merchandise Exports rebounded strongly in September. These registered a positive 2.2% increase from the revised double-digit negative growth rate of 12.8% in the previous month. This was the first time the growth rate crossed the positive territory since the onset of COVID-19 in March.

Moreover, there was positive year-on-year (YOY) exports to our 7 out of the top 10 major export destinations. These are: Thailand (21.9%): the combined markets of China and Hong Kong (17.6%); Singapore (9.1%); Germany (7.7%); the Netherlands and Taiwan (3% each); and Japan (0.7%). This eased the year-to-date (YTD) growth rate to negative 13.8% from negative 16.6% posted in the first eight months of 2020.

Habang ang ating bansa ay patuloy pong binubuksan ang ekonomiya at niluluwagan ang mga restrictions, kasabay ng pag-obserba sa health protocols ng mga manggagawa, ang atin pong merchandise exports ay posibleng manatili sa sustained uptrend nito hanggang sa pagtatapos ng taon at sa susunod na mga taon.

With competition expected to intensify and drive companies and industries to engage more on innovation in the future, the Philippines is already ranking high in the Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2020. From 100th in 2014, the country sustained its rise in the GII ranking and is now among the top 50 innovators for the first time ever, currently ranked 50th this year from 54th in 2019.

In keeping up with the country’s commitment to innovation, the DTI has been working on the following industry 4.0 readiness initiatives.

First, we have Industry 4.0 roadmaps designed to sustain and improve the country’s innovation ranking and performance in the GII. We plan to create more globally competitive and innovative industries, as well as promote an inclusive, sustainable and resilient industrial development by embracing and adopting Industry 4.0 technologies.

Second, our Global MSME Academy will be a training facility for 4IR technologies to upskill and reskill the workforce, making them Industry 4.0 ready. Third, we will establish an Industry 4.0 Pilot Factory to serve as a demonstration facility for the technologies that businesses can adopt. Fourth, we are developing a framework to reskill and upskill workers for Industry 4.0 technologies.

Fifth and last, we are positioning the Philippines as an AI center for excellence in the region by developing the talent pool and the country’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Given our country’s young population and higher educational institutions offering AI courses, we can excel in AI since the technology capitalizes on human expertise in programming and data science.

We would like to point out that our Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022 is not only being implemented but has undergone periodic review. As such, we’ve proposed revisions aligned with the pandemic effects and impact to our economy.

The new programs discussed earlier can be considered as projects in the PEDP, specifically in the upskilling and reskilling of our workforce. This will develop our human resources, which is our country’s greatest asset. We call on our partner-agencies—the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Department of Education (DepED)—to help us with this endeavour.

Education and training is important in our quest to produce world-class Filipino products and services. As we implement the country’s innovation program, we also need to ensure human capital development towards innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore, the role of Philippine education in honing the country’s future workforce is integral to produce more innovators, researchers, and knowledge producers.

Moreover, industries should institute effective on-the-job-training programs to improve the labor pool, as well as a strong industry-based competency standards and national qualifications frameworks.

With the export community playing a critical role in how the country will adapt to 4IR, they need the assistance of the government to effectively boost our export performance, especially in these trying times.

The coming future will be a perfect example of the inclusive growth and adaptive environment that will help us to become more agile in facing the challenges of 4IR. That’s why we need to plan for this future and reassess our digital initiatives, especially those that provide near-term assistance to employees, customers, and stakeholders.

We take this opportunity to call for a whole-of-society collaboration to prepare for the continuing digital transformation that our country will undergo. On the government’s part, planning for this society-wide digital transformation means the following:

First, the government should take the lead by speeding up e-governance projects, such as the national ID system and the digitalization of government processes and procedures, or e-Gov as part of our Ease of Doing Business programs. This will help promote greater inclusion, improve efficiency, and enhance security. Second, we should boost efforts to speed up the rollout of mobile network infrastructure through a common tower policy as a step towards the right direction.

Third, we need to foster policies that reduce the digital divide and create a more conducive business environment for the digital economy to flourish. Promoting innovation and improving the business environment in the country will be critical in supporting the digital economy.

Meanwhile, businesses should embrace technology and upgrade training programs to equip their workers with the best skills. They can even consider apprenticeship to equip future workers with the right sets of skills. Likewise, companies should invest in their ability to conduct business using the internet to be more resilient to potential lockdowns. In addition, they can invest in automation and re-shore production to shield against value chain disruption.

For the exporters, having innovative products mean more export revenues. That’s why you must learn how to pivot and upgrade your business models, diversify and produce innovative products not only to ensure your businesses to survive, but also to keep with the pace of the technological revolution.

To conclude, the COVID-19 crisis provided a glimpse of our future world, one in which digitalization has become central to our every interaction and has also forced us to move further up the adoption curve almost overnight.

However, companies are now progressing more quickly to learn from and adjust to today’s crisis, which will deeply influence their performance in the future. As our country adapts to the transformation brought about by digitalization and innovation, this will surely generate new job and employment opportunities for our people. This will help us move towards an inclusive and prosperous economy for the country, with more Filipinos achieving a better and comfortable quality of life as promised by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

At this point, we would again like to extend our gratitude to all of you for participating in this first ever virtual National Export Congress. As we share our learning and knowledge of adapting to the “New Normal,” let us plan our “Better Normal” for our children and future generations. We are confident that Filipinos can rise up to any challenge, especially if we act together as one nation.

Together, let us heal as one. Together, let us recover as one.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat.

Date of Release: 03 December 2020