EXPORTERS are appealing to the government to invest more on science and technology development to enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to move to value-added production, create more jobs and compete.
Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), said that Philippine manufacturing is stuck with relatively low-technology processes in sectors such as food, beverages, handicrafts, footwear and clothing because of the relatively low interest of the country in innovation and its meager spending on technology development.
In contrast, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are engaged largely in the manufacture of high-technology products.
Ortiz-Luis called on the government to raise the budget for science and technology, promote research and development (R&D) among SMEs and to enable the country’s transition to a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy.
According to a Unesco report, the Philippines’ budget for science and technology amounts to only 0.09 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), behind Singapore’s 2.2 percent; Malaysia, 0.63 percent; Thailand, 0.25 percent; and Vietnam, 0.19 percent.
An innovation-led economy offers “tremendous opportunities” to businesses, professionals, workers and consumers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), whose population is about 600 million, Ortiz-Luis said.
He also stressed that in the Asean blueprint, science and technology and innovation, backed up by R&D, are “the crucial impetus that will promote competitiveness and dynamism of sectors like food, agriculture and forestry and energy,” among others.
“As competition is expected to fiercely increase as we move towards full Southeast Asian integration, our SMEs need to innovate to maintain their market share and to increase their base of customers,” said Philexport-Cebu Executive Director Fred Escalona.
“Philexport Cebu has always professed that the way to go is innovation,” Escalona added.
Investments in both soft and hard IT infrastructure are vital. “Fast and reliable connectivity is important as a cornerstone to businesses, as we transition toward cloud computing, big data, analytics, machine-to-machine technologies and applications, and automation of knowledge work,” said Ortiz-Luis.
He also pushed for measures to encourage students to take up engineering and science and technology courses.
“We support the recommendation to establish science and technology centers of excellence and research and development to support specific industries and address connectivity issues if we want our businesses to be locally, regionally and globally interconnected,” he said.