By Louella Desiderio | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — Incoming Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said the new administration aims to prioritize micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as the further improvement of the ease of doing business in the country.
Pascual, who has been named by President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the head of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday night that support for MSMEs is among the priorities of the current administration that he intends to pursue.
“A big portion of our population generates income from MSMEs and we need to help them recover. They have been hard hit, they have very little reserves and there is a need to provide support. So that’s one program or focus of the administration of (outgoing Trade) Secretary (Ramon) Lopez that I will continue and enhance to the extent that I can,” Pascual said.
MSMEs account for over 99 percent of the country’s registered businesses and generate 62.66 percent of the total jobs.
Pascual, who currently serves as president of business group Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said there is a need to mobilize support from the private sector in helping MSMEs.
“I already started discussions with private sector groups that can help address the needs of MSMEs in the area of financing and the area of productivity enhancement,” Pascual said.
According to him, the Trade department would continue to work closely with business groups as the new administration seeks to further make it easier to do business in the country.
“One idea that I have been toying around is for small businesses, probably the requirements for registration can be waived for the first few years and only to get them to submit to regulatory requirements as soon as they are able to take off the ground and generate profitability,” Pascual said.
The incoming DTI chief said the new administration also intends to make business registration easier through digitalization.
On the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, Pascual said that reviews have already been made on the impact of the deal that creates the world’s largest free trade area.
“I think it is a matter of getting all the stakeholders together and agreeing on what is the real impediment and what is just misunderstood at this point,” Pascual added.
Earlier, President-elect Marcos said he wants a review of the RCEP to make sure the country’s agriculture sector would not be at a disadvantage and would be able to take on competition from the opening of markets under the trade deal.
It would be recalled the outgoing Trade secretary has said the RCEP is safe for the sector since no new sensitive agricultural products were included in the trade agreement.
Lopez also warned of the negative implications of delaying participation in the RCEP such as the country losing market share and investments.
According to Pascual, there is a need to attract more local and foreign investors to generate more jobs.
“In the long run, we need to also inject more technology into our economy so that we’ll be creating greater value added in our industries. We would like our DTI to be the purveyor of technology in the Philippine economy,” Pascual said.