THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said digitalization and other conventional sectors will continue to create employment and drive the Philippine economy going forward.

"It is very evident... the digital economy... is something that could be a growth driver going forward," NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon responded when asked what industries the agency is looking at when it comes to employment generation during an online business forum organized by The Manila Times.

The infrastructure, data centers, artificial intelligence and digital skills are just a few of the things she said the Marcos administration wanted to make the digital sector more dynamic.

"We need to have a pool actually of manpower so that we can have this vibrant digital economy," Edillon noted.

She further said the government will promote the digitalization of its procedures.

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In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the country's tax system would be adjusted to keep up with the rapid advancements of the digital economy. This would include the imposition of a value-added tax on digital service providers, which would generate an initial revenue impact of about P11.7 billion in 2023.

He said the Bureau of Customs will support expedited procedures using information and communications technologies. Furthermore, Marcos gave the Department of Information and Communications Technology instructions to find and apply innovations that will enhance the government.

"The National ID will play an important part in this digital transformation. For citizens to be able to seamlessly transact with government, their identity must be easily verifiable," he added.

The Philippines' internet economy is estimated to be worth $7.5 billion, and by 2025, it is seen to increase by 30 percent yearly to reach $28 billion, according to a report by the economic consulting firm AlphaBeta.

However, it said that a number of obstacles prevent the country from fully implementing digital transformation, including low levels of digital adoption among micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, a lack of knowledge of policies and programs in place to promote digital adoption, gaps in access to digital tools, and a shortage of workers with the necessary digital skills.

There is still potential for more digital transformation initiatives, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only emphasized how important they are. The Philippines' digital economy has a lot of room to grow because of its youthful and tech-savvy population, the firm added.

It said improving digital skills training and education, speeding up digital adoption and innovation, and promoting digital trade prospects are the three key areas of action for the Philippines.

"If leveraged fully, digital transformation can unlock P5-trillion ($101.3-billion) worth of annual economic value in the Philippines by 2030," AlphaBeta estimated.

Conventional sources

Edillon said besides the digital economy, the Philippines still have the conventional sources of jobs like the tourism industry, which before the pandemic accounted for around 12 percent of all employment in the country.

"We will hope to be able to revive that as well," she added.

Edillon also mentioned the need of utilizing the creative industries' ability to promote the Filipino brand of goods and tourist destinations, among other things.

She further said NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan is also pushing for the revival of the manufacturing sector, which serves as an intermediate sector to other industries.

"So it gets from agriculture, and then also, you know, sends it over to the service sector. So we want that revived, but in terms of more innovations, in terms of processes and in terms of products," Edillon noted.

Marcos said the government will prioritize making fundamental improvements, such as repairing roads to make it simpler to reach tourist destinations, in order to strengthen the tourism industry. To help relieve the backlog at the Manila airport, it will also renovate airports and build more international airports.

He also said that the government will need an institutionalized creative sector to advance the interests of its stakeholders.