No major politicians and socio-economic NGO heavyweights are saying anything about the doom awaiting small Filipino businessmen and manufacturers when the full weight of the Asean economic integration falls on the Philippines. No one, that is, except voices from the Left.
Why is that? Because it is politically incorrect in the Philippines to complain aloud about the harm that the coming into being of the Asean economic community will do to little people in our country when the bigger, more muscular, wealthier and more advanced trading houses and manufacturers–and the bakeries and candymakers– of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia enter our country and function as “Filipino citizens.” Which is what Asean integration means. It is not politically correct to be negative in our country under the BS Aquino regime about policies that will benefit the richest and most powerful.
But one voice with some prestige and clout has spoken out at last. That voice is that of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
He says: “Philippines small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are not ready for Asean integration!”
He is asking the government to give full government support to the otherwise doomed Filipino SMEs.
He says the Philippine SMEs are ill-prepared to keep alive in a new, single economic society called the Asean Community, because of the absence of full government backing.
Senator Marcos says SMEs are the most vulnerable sector in the Asean integration movement with the non-tariff barriers removed, which make markets more open and more competitive. He pointed out that SMEs need to access government resources and those coming from other financial institutions to be able to improve their products and operations–and themselves more able to compete against the stronger Asean rivals.
Marcos says the government has gravely and greatly failed the SMEs because most of them still find it difficult to access loans and other forms of financial assistance.
Aside from the SMEs problems in accessing loan facilities, poor infrastructure and high cost of power are also keeping the poor Filipino entrepreneurs from achieving global competitiveness.
Marcos points out that Filipino SMEs are powerless in the Asean integration free-for-all without full government support. “Our country is now open to new and stronger businesses which may force our SMEs to shut down without government backing them up every step of the way,” he said. He cited the statistics showing that SMEs make up 99.6 percent of businesses registered in our country and employ 70 percent of the country’s total workforce. This means the downfall of the SMEs will mean the downfall of the greater Philippine society.
Senator Marcos, however, sees that it is not too late to help the SMEs. Our country has enough laws with the necessary safeguards to assist them. Implementing these laws will give more strength to our SMEs to be able to compete against regional rivals.
He said that government should be more zealous in helping the SMEs develop product improvement and innovation techniques. More rigorous skills training should be pursued to help the entrepreneurs make products that are regionally and globally competitive. “If we are to make meaningful change in the economy, we should help our SMEs because they make up more than 99 percent of our businesses and as they are now competing in the Asean market, they should be able to offer high value products and services to be able to survive.”
If these prescriptions are not carried out, our SMEs are doomed.
Work can be done more assiduously now by BS Aquino and his men and until they leave five months from now. Then the next administration should be just as hardworking and determined to boost the SMEs.