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Last week, at the first Logistics Services Philippines Conference, various stakeholders across the supply chain—government agencies and industry associations, including SCMAP —reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the competitiveness of the logistics sector, in recognition of its role as prime movers of the national economy.

 

On first reading, the Ten Commitments don’t include anything new. In fact, some of the concerns outlined in the manifesto—overlapping and conflicting functions among government agencies, insufficient infrastructure —have been recognized in previous efforts by the government to mount a collective response to supply chain issues, particularly through the planned National Logistics Master Plan. But, from my perch, there is a renewed confidence that these efforts will go further this time around.

 

A critical factor is the stronger commitment from the public sector in engaging other stakeholders through dialogue and consultation. In the weeks leading up to the LSPH conference, the Department of Trade and Industry has led many meetings with industry players to understand the challenges and opportunities the sector faces. This is critical as, these days, these very issues move faster than most of us could get to grips on them. Take the emergence of last mile logistics: e-commerce has long had a presence in the Philippines (and a big one, judging from response to recent sales) but only now as a sector we having a better, fuller picture of what is needed to serve the customer beyond their expectations.

 

The passing of the Ease of Doing Business Act earlier this year further solidifies government’s efforts to make our logistics sector more competitive, by allowing players to, in theory, respond to increased demand and expand their capacity faster. Of course, as the law has yet to be fully rolled out among all government agencies and local government units, its full impact has yet to be assessed.

 

Also critical is the focus on data. If anything, this is the biggest challenge the sector faces: we just don’t have enough data to understand where we need to invest to expand capacity and capability. I understand the hesitation among players to provide this information publicly: more often than not it’s confidential, and releasing it may allow competitors to take advantage. But whatever data is publicly available is disjointed or unorganized, and may not provide a better snapshot of the state of the logistics industry. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the Philippine Multimodal Transport and Logistics Association’s Marilyn Alberto to present that snapshot during the conference: while we have a good idea because of our work, without a lot of hard numbers, all we have is anecdotal evidence.

 

In recent years efforts to better understand the logistics sector with hard numbers have intensified. Take the Logistics Efficiency Indicators survey, which gauged the competitiveness of our logistics providers, and has been helpful in understanding particular challenges for customers in different parts of the country. (It is planned to be repeated next year, to better monitor progress of the sector.) In addition, the DTI’s commitment to establish a Logistics Observatory—a repository of real-time data about the sector—would go a long way to allow all players to understand just what they’re up against, and make better decisions as a result.

 

This better understanding should result in more sensible policies and regulations that do not just address the current needs of the logistics sector, but also future needs. One example is the DTI’s letter to the Philippine Competition Commission, requesting the latter to look into international shipping rates; it was backed up by a study with involvement from stakeholders in the private sector. In the long run, I imagine this better understanding can help with promoting and developing investments in the logistics sector, one of the Ten Commitments signed.

 

Provided all players stay on the same page and continue engaging in meaningful discourse and dialogue, we can come up with solutions and approaches that do not just cover up existing problems, but rather effectively address current and future needs. Imagine all stakeholders in supply chain, across the public and private sectors, together addressing current issues in manpower, both on the warehouse floor and in offices. (It is encouraging to hear from the Commission on Higher Education at the Conference that they are looking to add supply chain courses in colleges across the nation.) Imagine infrastructure taking advantage of the emerging move towards halal logistics, or the importance of cold chain logistics on food security—and by that I don’t just mean transportation networks, but also logistics facilities designed to improve visibility and reduce congestion and its knock-on effects.

 

All this will not happen overnight, but fingers crossed last week is the first of many steps—and that we continue to move forward, standing up for the role supply chain plays in improving lives, rather than stay still and bask in this important gesture for the sector.

 

2019 Board of Directors: Congratulations to our new BOD, assuming their positions at the beginning of next year: Christine Pardiñas of Rustan Supercenters, president; Clarissa Castillo of Johnson & Johnson, vice president; Dina Pilapil of LF Logistics, treasurer; Dario Arive Jr. of URC Flour, treasurer; Pierre Carlo Curay of XVC Logistics, auditor; and Anghelita Santor of Nestlé, Arnel Gamboa of National Bookstore, Jannis Dargel of Zalora, Nestor Felicio of Unilab, and Suzie Mitchell of DHL Supply Chain, directors.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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