• PhilExport pushes export industry reform agenda

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    EXPORTERS are pinning high hopes on robust economic growth and government programs to boost exports to fuel the recovery of the sector, as they pushed the industry reform agenda forward.

    “From many indications, we would like to believe that this is, indeed, the golden age of MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises],” Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said on Thursday.

    Ortiz-Luis said his group has been advocating and promoting a strong and sustainable MSME sector “in a way that they can effectively and efficiently participate in the regional and global production networks and compete with the rest of the world.”

    With the right environment, he expects the MSMEs’ share in the country’s employment and gross domestic product (GDP) to increase from its current contribution of 35 percent to 40 percent, or even higher.

    Ortiz-Luis said that in 2017, PhilExport and the Export Development Council (EDC) will push the industry reform agenda, which will include maximization of the benefits of free trade agreements (FTAs), intensified campaign against corruption and facilitation of infrastructure development, and capacity building for MSME and institutional disaster resilience.

    He said these trade agreements include the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Philippine-European Free Trade Agreement.

    Ortiz-Luis also looked forward to the full utilization of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), an initiative supported by PhilExport.

    “Breakthroughs in this front also lies on the successful removal of non-tariff barriers that prevent us from entering new or expanding our markets,” he noted.

    Ortiz-Luis added that they will continue advocating the implementation of existing labor laws to ensure workers’ security of tenure as a middle ground to stopping illegal hiring practice, and the passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Act, Ease of Doing Business Act and amendments to the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) of the Magna Carta for MSMEs, among others.

    The PhilExport president said he hopes that the country’s latest export performance will signal the start of the export recovery even amid slower global economic growth.

    The country’s GDP grew 7.1 percent in the third quarter, topping economic growth in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, during the period.

    Merchandise exports in October rose 3.7 percent for the second consecutive month after a 17-month decline.

    Ortiz-Luis also cited the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) thrust to further strengthen the manufacturing sector, which is now growing 7 percent to 8 percent, compared with 3 percent to 4 percent in the past.

    The DTI also announced it would set aside an initial P1 billion in 2017 for lending to micro and small firms to “discourage borrowers from turning to usurious lenders.”

    The target is for the funds, which will come from the Office of the President, to grow to P18 billion, with each of the region allocated P1 billion.

    “Exporters with signed contracts and orders in the first half of the year may expect a windfall as the currency gets to a more competitive level, hopefully sustainably,” Ortiz-Luis added.

    The government expects to achieve its $100-billion export revenue target by 2020.

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