Rubber, paper industries bare roadmaps to DTI

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its Board of Investments (BOI), on Thursday received the roadmaps for the domestic paper and rubber industries.

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“In the tradition of the TID [Trade and Industry Development Updates], we have lined up a series of stakeholder conferences of which this forum is the second, to provide you with updates and present the complexities in the sector and significant findings of each roadmap,” said Adrian Cristobal, DTI undersecretary and BOI managing head.

University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Studies Director Leoncio Cubillas presented the roadmap for the rubber industry, while Philippine Paper Manufacturers Association Inc. Director Ray Geganto presented the roadmap for the paper industry.

The forum is the latest installment in the DTI and BOI’s TID Updates program and comes after the first one conducted last August 13, where roadmaps for the manufacturing, chemical and copper industries were presented.

“At that forum, we discussed with stakeholders the objectives and principles governing the road-mapping project. This initiative is about knowing the past and current situation of industries and setting goals for the present and the future,” Cristobal said.

Rubber industry

The rubber industry roadmap “aims to propel its products to become key contributors to the country’s economic development.” The industry’s target is to upgrade their manufacturing capabilities and technical and market standards, which according to them will boost their links with local and export markets.

“The ability to adjust to customer requirements, the technical capability to satisfy the needs of customers, the expertise and knowledge to manufacture many types of rubber products, and the capacity to meet and cater to market demand are the strengths of the rubber industry,” said Cubellas.

“Its weaknesses, on the other hand, include the need to outsource tool and machine requirements, the difficulty of coming up with an effective marketing plan, and the weak capability to compete with foreign products,” he added.

Aside from those, the industry is also facing a number of threats, like the smuggling of rubber products, especially tires from China. There is also the deficiency in rubber testing facilities, nonavailability of quality raw materials, unstable price of crumb rubber, and lack or even absence of government support.

But despite all these challenges and the industry being “small,” the rubber industry still sees many opportunities that may help it achieve its targets. The most notable is the country’s climate, which makes the Philippines an ideal place for planting rubber trees.

Paper industry

Meanwhile, the paper industry envisions itself to be able to serve all major pulp and papering requirements of the country come 2020. It also plans to develop high-value, high-quality products in the long term, to be competitive internationally, and to be environmentally sustainable. But before the paper industry achieves those goals, it has to overcome some big concerns like the lack of raw materials.

According to Geganto, it is mostly wastepaper that is used in the production of paper products in the country, with a small percentage of all domestic paper products coming from fiber.

“The quality of local wastepaper is so low while its price constantly is going up, so we really have to import. Another reason is how inadequate the country’s supply of wastepaper is,” said Geganto.

Another problem of the industry is that most of the country’s paper mills are either too old or too small. Geganto said that small mills cost more to operate than big mills, and are much more difficult to maintain and upgrade.

He said that while other countries can produce more than 1,000 tons of paper a day, the Philippines can produce around 60 to 100 tons.

“Most of the paper mills in the country are set up either before the war or during the ’60s. That’s why it’s so difficult to compete with other countries, especially those with bigger and modernized mills,” Geganto said.

But the industry still believes that the industry will realize all of its goals in the roadmap, and sees “exponential growth” in the coming years. Geganto said this is because the industry has identified the key drivers for growth for the pulp and paper industry.

“Industries like food processing, electronics, furniture, all of these needs packaging, so there is definitely growth here,” he added.

“We use paper when writing. We use it in health care and in the household. We use it in packaging. We may not notice it, but paper has become a permanent part of our lives,” Geganto said.

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