Twenty years ago this month, leaders of two distinct and independent organizations of exporters came together and decided to unify into one umbrella organization. It was a bold move by mostly small exporters to pursue a common dream, that of moving as one group in making the Philippines an exporting nation.
Thus was born the Philippine Exporters Confederation presently known by its acronym: PHILEXPORT.
PHILEXPORT’s founding was a historic first step at giving exporters a singular voice, a common direction and a unified action agenda.
Along the way, PHILEXPORT could rightfully claim significant successes for the industry.
When PHILEXPORT came to life in 1992, exports — at about US$9 billion — contributed little to the national economy. At that time, most of our traditional exports like logs, gold, copper, and sugar were gone. Copra export from aging coconut trees was not growing. Most of the country’s forests had been denuded of trees. Most of the mines had closed shop. We were even importing sugar.
In their place, a new generation of exports was emerging like fresh and processed food, Christmas decors, handicrafts and furniture, many of them children of the defunct NACIDA (National Cottage Industries Development Authority). The electronics and automotive parts industries were still at their toddler stage of development. In short, ninety nine of every 100 PHILEXPORT member then were small and medium enterprises.
We are still an SME-dominated organization but our merchandise exports hit the $52-billion mark last year. Growing exports five fold in 20 years is no mean feat, the sector’s greatest achievement.
The second most important achievement was the passage into law of the Export Development Act of 1994. The most significant spin-off from that law was the institutionalization of the then ad hoc Export Development Council. EDC has presided over the drawing up of a rolling export development plan updated and adjusted every three years and the execution of that plan since the law was passed.
The EDC turned out to be a pioneer for sustained private-public-partnership or PPP. Our partnership with DTI and other government agencies and support groups, including international development agencies, predated the PPP by 20 years.
Also in keeping with provisions of the Export Act, the World Trade Center Manila was built as the permanent exhibition hall for exporters and other industries.
In partnership with the DOST, the National Design and Packaging Center was also established catering not only to exporters but also to small, start-up enterprises.
Knowing fully well that access to credit persists as a major problem for micro, small and medium enterprises, PHILEXPORT worked hard with other business groups to get the Magna Carta for SMEs amended and re-amended to become friendlier to the small. We managed to get its coverage expanded to micro enterprises, and get the loopholes in compliance by private banks plugged.
Advocacy for reforms is one arena where PHILEXPORT made a distinctive mark in the firmament of business organizations, a few of them like the PCCI and the Makati Business Club, are household names.
Over the nineties and the first decade of the new century, PHILEXPORT was in the forefront of many of the economic policy reforms that a succession of Congresses made into law. Some of the most prominent were our accession to the World Trade Organization, the Bank Liberalization Act, the Trade Liberalization Law, the E-Commerce law, the Magna Carta for MSME, and accession to the World Customs Organization through compliance with the Revised Kyoto Convention.
The vision to become an exporting nation and the next tiger economy is challenged by a number of issues. But PHILEXPORT remains focused on this task, convinced that exports is the key to sustainable economic growth.