PHILEXPORT seeks support for MSMEs to reopen, sustain operations amid pandemic

As the government eases the lockdown and more businesses reopen, the umbrella organization of Philippine exporters is pushing for the immediate passage of measures that will help especially the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) recover from the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and adapt to the new normal.

The Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT) has developed the New Normal Export and MSME Roadmap urging also the speedy implementation of programs and policies that can help these enterprises to reopen gradually from the crisis until reaching their full capacity, sustain their operations, and create jobs.

The roadmap, anchored on three pillars called Recovery, Resilience and Resurgence (3Rs), was launched at the 3-part PHILEXPORT 2nd Quarter General Membership Meeting on June 9.

It cited as one important intervention the need for the full implementation of the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act of 2020 (PESA) and the New Normal Act with amendments from the private sector. PESA has evolved to be the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) Act.

The House of Representatives has passed on second reading the P1.3-trillion ARISE economic stimulus package that shall provide allocations for interest-free loans, as well as provision of education, training, and guidance, to pandemic-hit MSMEs.

The MSME sector, comprising about 99 percent of all industries in the country, has been identified among the three hardest hit sectors of the Covid-19 pandemic, aside from tourism and transportation.

The PHILEXPORT also pushed for the passage of the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA) by reducing corporate income tax (CIT) immediately to 25 percent to help attract investors and increase cash flow particularly for MSMEs. CITIRA is now CREATE or Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act.

“Insulate exporters from the growing risks of globalization by removing (the) disincentive of sell to (the) domestic market. Remove the export threshold in the proposed CITIRA bill, especially in this crisis where exports is in an extra difficult challenge and regime,” its New Normal Export Roadmap states.

The exporters’ group likewise underscored the need to revive a pending bill and pass the Customs Amnesty Act which can be one major source of government revenues much needed to fund crisis recovery programs and projects.

To help pandemic-affected MSMEs, it cited the importance of fully rolling out the P1-billion Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program of SB Corporation, in collaboration with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Negosyo Centers and possibly industry associations to help ensure that loan applications are compliant.

The group also pushed for the provision of an export promotion budget as a subsidy for all exporters for at least one year.

“Increase DTI budget by at least 100 percent every year, with 75 percent of which to serve as (an) annual subsidy for export promotion and marketing,” the New Normal Export Roadmap added.

As business opportunities emerge under pandemic outbreak, PHILEXPORT said it is imperative to assist companies to re-purpose their facilities to help boost the production of Covid-19 essentials, and support others in the shift to more viable business options.

It likewise pushed for the continuing conduct of market and product research on emerging trends and new business models that evolved from this crisis.

“Countries that are heavily affected by the increasing Covid-19 cases have to rely on imports to feed their people who are locked in their homes, a boost to current export uncertainties,” it said.

PHILEXPORT President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the roadmap aims to control the epidemic, restart and expand economic activities, and finally transition exports and MSMEs to the digital economy.

“While development plans remain valid, there is (a) need to transition from this stage of the crisis towards recovery, resilience and resurgence leading to the targets spelled out in these development plans, including the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP),” he said.

Meanwhile, the first part of the GMM on Epidemic Control featured as speakers Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, Labor Assistant Secretary Dr. Ma. Teresita Cucueco, and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives.

Christine Pardinas, president of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), Small Business Corp. president and chief executive officer Luna Cacanando and House of Representatives Committee on Economic Affairs chair Cong. Sharon Garin will share plans and programs on the Roadmap objective Resumption and Expansion of Economic Activities. This session, to be held on June 16 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., will also include the launch of the PHILEXPORT-SB Corporation CARES financing program,

The GMM’s third program, slated on June 23, is about Transition to the Digital Economy, including the launch of the PHILEXPORT Project: The Road to FIRe (Fourth Industrial Revolution) that aims to help bridge the gaps especially for the MSMEs to assist them successfully thrive in the New Normal and the FIRe.

“Weathering this Covid-19 pandemic will require focus and strong private-public partnership to maximize resources,” Ortiz-Luis Jr. added.

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