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Exporters, MSMEs raise concerns, seek gov’t help

INTERVENTION. Exporters and micro, small and medium entrepreneurs seek government measures and initiatives to address the mounting trade and economic difficulties they encounter amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. (SunStar file)

STAKEHOLDERS across the Philippines, including direct and indirect exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have appealed to the government for urgent help, saying their focus has now been reduced to ensuring day-to-day survival.

Enterprises and businesses from the top 10 exporting regions are asking for swift government measures and initiatives to address the mounting trade and economic difficulties they encounter amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

They enumerated a growing wish list of interventions needed to enable exporters and MSMEs to recover from the unprecedented setbacks due to the pandemic, travel restrictions and lockdowns.

The list was presented during a series of regional online consultations conducted by the Export Development Council over the implementation of the updated Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022. The series was held in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.

Participants came from the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and Calabarzon in Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, and Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen and Caraga in Mindanao. They called for specific and detailed measures centered on enhancing trade facilitation, productivity and competitiveness, market access and promotion, financial assistance, innovative capacity, and information dissemination.

NCR attendees pushed for, among others, intensified training on Halal and major international certifications, export requirements and procedures; modern facilities to support production; incentives for identified priority sectors; and export financing assistance. They also sought help on the more-than-usual requirements from financial institutions because of the pandemic.

Central Luzon attendees commented on the higher prices of their products compared to other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) suppliers due to higher cost of operations. They also noted the unstable supply chain for wood-based products due to government policies that are causing prices of raw materials to unreasonably increase.

Other pressing issues for the region’s exporters include the delays and high costs owing to various requirements on product certification, standards, fumigation, rules of origin, testing and labeling.

They also observed how local government units implement their own policies that are not aligned to that of the national government rules. In addition, MSMEs are at a disadvantage because they have weak links with freeports and economic zones in terms of transit arrangements, information, and technology sharing.

Participants asked for aid to medium sized enterprises, which are also hard hit by the pandemic, through an SB Cares facility similar to the one available to micro and small enterprises.

Moreover, stakeholders in the Calabarzon area underlined the lack of information on and access to virtual/online marketing and promotion of local products. There should be a government agency that will help MSME exporters digitalize, the participants said.

Concerns in Visayas

In the Visayas, a major issue for Western Visayas is poor logistics, which hampers and delays the transport of raw materials and finished products. Regional stakeholders also highlighted the lack of international flights flying in and out of Western Visayas, as well as the lack of export capability of the regional ports that could help to reduce export costs.

Among their list of recommendations are the following: establish a multi-sectoral warehouse, conduct supply chain management workshop to address logistics concerns and facilitate the approval/issuance of the certificate of origin in the region.

They also called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the e-submission of documents and assign more personnel.

Another suggestion is to have post-Covid updates on export markets and trends, particularly in the Asean, US, Europe and Latin America. A dialogue with concerned government agencies on reopening of international flights to allow entry of imported raw materials into the country was also proposed.

Central Visayas exporters said they will benefit from the removal of unnecessary regulatory impediments, access to interest-free trade credit and stimulus package, and help in taking advantage of preferential status programs such as the General System Preference (GSP) and GSP+.

Stressing the short shelf life of agricultural products, exporters for Eastern Visayas asked for the streamlining of export processing, utilizing of updated technology in product development, farm mechanization and clustering of farmer groups, and enhancement of the one-stop laboratory and shared service facility for longer shelf life and increased production.

Struggles in Mindanao

Meanwhile, stakeholders in Mindanao pointed to the continuing struggles of both big and small exporters as a consequence of Covid-19, and discussed how their attention is now focused on day-to-day survival. They cited the permanent shutdown of South Bukidnon Fresh Trading Inc., an exporter of fresh pineapples, as one of the casualties of the pandemic in the region.

Their wish list includes the strict implementation of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act among government regulatory agencies such as the FDA, Bureau of Customs, and LGUs.

The want to see improvement in export business preparedness and resiliency measures amidst the adverse effects of climate change, and the extension of technical support on business continuity planning.

Aside from these, they issued calls for capacity-building in virtual/online marketing and e-business platforms, stronger tripartite linkages among the academe, industry and government for more focused assistance, and more access to the Department of Science and Technology’s Food Innovation Centers and Technology Business Incubators.

They added that there is a need to fast-track reduction of tariffs for bananas and other agricultural products exported to South Korea and Japan, and to strengthen market access through aggressive market intelligence network by foreign trade service corps and agricultural commercial attaches. (PHILEXPORT NEWS AND FEATURES)


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