Feature: Philippine electronics industry received boost from APEC 1996

QUEZON CIY, Nov 19 -- The Philippine electronics industry benefitted much from the country’s first hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) in November 1996.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Chito Manalo said that free trade agreements among the 21-member APEC economies almost 20 years ago gave a boost to the then struggling local electronic sector.

The electronics industry’s share in the Philippines’ total exports improved during the last 20 years, based on data of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (Seipi), an organization comprising leaders of the high-technology industry and other sectors involved in electronics business.

In 1993, the Philippine’s electronic components exports amounted to $3.78 million, representing 33 percent of country’s total export. In 2004, the value of electronics exports climbed to $26.64 million or 69 percent of the total exports, according to Seipi.

In May 2015, electronic products have become the country’s top exports with total receipts of $2.357 billion, or 48.1 percent of the total exports revenue in May 2015.

“The demand for automotive, consumer and industrial products are still driving the growth, so the general guidance is still 5 percent to 7 percent,” Dan Lachica, Seipi president said during a meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry.

Electronics proved resistant against the trend of decreasing merchandise exports early this year. As of February 2015, value of total exports was at $4.5 billion, with components and devices or semiconductors comprising the biggest share at 29.5 percent worth $1.33 billion. This is an increase of 16 percent from $1.149 billion in February 2014.

The 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week being hosted by the Philippines has for its theme, “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.”

Manalo said that in May 2015, APEC trade ministers recognized the need to support micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs.

Early on, the current administration has taken SMEs as a special concern as it employs the bulk of the country’s labor force.

“In fact that is exactly the purpose of APEC, to even the playing field by removing trade restrictions both within well-developed and still developing economies,” Manalo said in reply to a question on safety nets government has put in place for local small traders and given that APEC is composed of strong and weaker economies.

Last year, electronics was cited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) as the saving grace for the country’s slowed overall export growth, which the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. had said is due in part to the prolonged effect of the port congestion, which led to the cancellation of export orders.

Electronics was among the commodities unaffected by the port congestion as these were shipped by air. Exports of Peza, as of November of 2014, grew only by 3.11 percent to $40.51 billion.

Last month, Acer Philippines has released two separate lines of mobile phones, a windows-based and a smart phone mainly because of its confidence in the stable local and regional market for mobile phones, a major electronics and semiconductor group.

Recently the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) inaugurated its Electronic Product Development Center (EPDC).

The electronics infrastructure, according to DOST, “will help push the country from being just an assembler into becoming a designer, manufacturer and marketer of electronic products produced in country.”

The EPDC is equipped with cutting-edge technologies that will enable local companies, start-ups and academe to conduct their research, design and prototyping of electronic products right here in the country.

Science Secretary Mario G. Montejo, in a statement, said “This milestone is not only the achievement of the department, but also the success of the whole [electronics] industry [in the country].”

Montejo added that the center is a fulfilment of the mandate to maximize the economic and social benefits of the science and technology in the country for the Filipino people, spearheaded by the Aquino government early on.

“It is about time to seriously look at product design activities, especially with the competition we could be facing in the upcoming Asean integration,” Engr. Alex Sy, president of the Electronics Industry Association of the Philippines Inc. said in a statement. He said that his group is very grateful to the government particularly to the DOST for listening to the industry’s needs.

Sy explained that companies engaged in product design usually earn more than those which are engaged in subcontracting jobs. The electronics and semiconductor industry is the nation’s top exporter accounting for 41 percent of the total exports. He lamented however that the industry is mostly dependent on subcontracting jobs, which is at the low end of the global value chain. Sy hopes that EPDC will encourage more research and development and provide the much-needed practical experience for our pool of designers in the country.

“The operation of the EPDC is a step closer to the realization of our long-term dreams,” he said.

The EPDC houses a Printed Circuit Board Prototyping and Fabrication Facility, a Product Prototyping Facility and a 10-meter Semi Anechoic Chamber for Electromagnetic Compatibility and Safety Testing. With these facilities, local manufacturers can save time and cost by doing fabrication and compliance testing here in the country. (AED/RDA-Media ng Bayan)


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