Magazine article International Trade Forum

Viewpoint from the Philippines

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Viewpoint from the Philippines

Article excerpt

Gerardo Anigan, Manager of the Policy Analysis and Advocacy Project of the Philippine Exporters Confederation (PHILEXPORT) and the United States Agency for International Development, provided participants with his perspective on e-commerce in the Philippines. Below are edited excerpts of his comments to some of the questions posed by conference moderator Peter Gallagher.

Q. Where are there examples of real commercial beneft? Or is e-commerce for developing countries, at leastan 'IOU' rather than a cheque?

A. In our country of 7100 islands, with an average of 1 phone for 10 people and everbusy telephone lines, using e-mail is convenient and cost-effective for business communications and electronic banking.

Positive examples of e-commerce exist in the Philippines. Recent growth of our electronics exports is partly due to customs computerization, as it led to faster turnaround from raw materials imports to exports of finished products. There have been import purchases over the Internet, with deliveries by parcel. The Government's recentlylaunched small investors program, which allows the purchase of treasury bills in lots of P5000 (roughly US$ 130), would have been difficult to launch without computerized handling procedures. Computer communications have always been at the back-end of airline reservations, credit card authentication, and many supermarket operations. So e-commerce has been happening in this developing country, and I believe in most developing countries.

Q. Is the 'e-commerce gap' a serious problem or will it prove to be trivial?

A. For Philippine exporters, it will not be trivial. Customs operations and transactions with foreign buyers (the United States remains our biggest market) are increasingly conducted on-line. If an exporter is not using the Internet within a few years, (as was the case for fax), exporters will find that foreign buyers will conduct business transactions elsewhere.

Q. What are your organization's experiences in e-commerce trade?

A. PHILEXPORT has been involved to varying degrees in e-commerce initiatives. Examples are:

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems for textile quota information and customs operations. PHILEXPORT has subsidized design for an EDI network for the government organization that is responsible for garments and textile quotas, so that export documents can be done on-line.

The system has been operating for over five years now. It seems to be self-supporting (we subsidized design and installation, including hardware) .

PHILEXPORT has also participated in testing for an EDI link to the Automated Customs Operations System in Metro Manila, which allows direct trader input through EDI systems for processing import/export documents.

Company advertising on our Internet web site. Members can list their companies and products on an "electronic catalogue" page. Initially, the companies had to pre-pay the web site host and web site maintainer before their information was uploaded. Only 20 companies registered in the first year. Last year, we changed our approach: we listed all of our active members, and told them the information would be updated only upon payment. Now approximately 80 companies participate.

Over 300 of our members have their own e-mail accounts by now, although most have not participated in the "electronic catalogue". I believe that this is because most small exporters are satisfied with a handful of regular buyers and do not feel the need for so much exposure, whether on a printed or electronic catalogue.

Demonstration projects. …

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