MAP and DTI discuss MSME priority programs

THE Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), with the participation of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), held its first face-to-face general membership meeting last July 14 at Shangri-La The Fort in Bonifacio Global City. The chief topic of the meeting was DTI priority programs largely focused on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and other efforts to sustain local economic recovery and growth.

MSMEs comprise 99.5 percent of business establishments in the country. They employ 63 percent of the Philippine workforce and contribute almost half of gross domestic product.

In his opening remarks, newly appointed MAP President Rogelio “Babes” Singson outlined the MAP’s MSME-centric proposals, which include the substantial deregulation of micro and small enterprises, so more of them can contribute to employment generation, and the freezing of field tax audits for these enterprises unless an apparent crime is being committed. Singson also asked business and government institutions to support MSMEs in procurement of supplies and materials and ensure timely payments within 30 days or less to prevent them from turning to predatory lenders.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, who was the honorary speaker, reiterated the importance of helping MSMEs grow. To achieve this, he outlined DTI strategies that use science, technology and innovation (STI) to develop globally competitive industries, and remove barriers to finance, technology and the market. Digital transformation programs with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will help MSMEs create e-commerce platforms and enable them to access services offered by startups like GrowSari, which connects sari-sari (variety) stores to manufacturers, and First Circle, which offers affordable revolving credit lines.

In collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), Pascual will also implement STI-driven programs to help MSMEs address growth challenges by making their operations more efficient. These will hopefully build a solid domestic base that will eventually encourage forays into the export market, especially among agri-based industries.

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The establishment of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research and the Industry 4.0 Pilot Factory will also help growing enterprises create new and innovative products using artificial intelligence and other new technologies. The DTI will also provide acceleration and incubation services, and link startups with farmers, MSMEs and universities nationwide to support the growth and development of the local startup ecosystem.

Pascual mentioned that partnerships with other institutions were also underway to create more knowledge hubs for MSMEs in each region such as the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, DoST and the Commission on Higher Education.

These hubs will advance the implementation of production-based regional development and serve as a region’s inclusive innovation center. Aside from performing research and development work and training for enterprises, they will also link startups and MSMEs with important stakeholders and service providers.

To address food security challenges, the DTI will work on improving food value chains in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture. Upgrading transport and logistics facilities and pursuing effective local government-enabled market matching mechanisms for food production are among the DTI’s priorities. In addition, the DTI will promote digital technology to assist in streamlining agricultural supply chains to link producers directly to markets. Pascual also vowed to work with the DICT to improve services currently offered by agritech startups like Agrabah Marketplace and e-Magsasaka.

Three industry clusters have been identified by the World Bank in collaboration with the DTI as potential sources of growth. To leverage this data, DTI is prioritizing exports in the following:

– aerospace, automotive (electric vehicles) and semiconductors;

– digital services, information technology and business process management, artificial intelligence and data analytics, cybersecurity, hyper-scale data centers and creative industries; and

– biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and health care services.

To boost these industries, the DTI will continue efforts to make the Philippines a more attractive location for hyperscalers and upskill firms and encourage multinational companies operating domestically to outsource contract manufacturing to local players.

To balance the scale between spurring economic activity and improving critical services for local industries, Pascual also vowed to intensify consumer protection through its Consumer Protection Group. The DTI will enhance consumer rights and ensure the availability of basic and necessary products and commodities at reasonable prices.

Pascual promised to follow the President’s (Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.) directive for rightsizing organizations by cutting bureaucratic layers in decision-making, improving DTI employees’ digital expertise and transforming the DTI into a more agile organization.

At the end of his speech, Pascual reiterated the DTI’s goal of assisting businesses to do well in terms of profits so that they may share the prosperity gained. He emphasized the DTI’s shared vision with the MAP to push for change and promote a better future for all through methods such as attracting more foreign and domestic investors, improving the ease of doing business, creating more high-quality jobs and enabling more MSMEs. Pascual believes the private sector will become the country’s engine of growth.

MSMEs looking to stay updated on the DTI and MAP’s upcoming programs can follow both organizations’ official Facebook accounts or sign up for First Circle’s newsletter at First Circle, an official financing partner of the DTI and an MAP member, regularly covers the latest events and updates from both organizations in their websites and Facebook accounts. Alternatively, MSMEs that are interested in funding their business development, upskilling their employees, or funding short-term cash flow gaps due to late payments from suppliers can visit First Circle’s website at for a revolving credit line of up to P10 million, costing as low as 1.39 percent per month.