MANILA - The government and the private sector believe the Philippines has a good chance of becoming an e-commerce leader in Southeast Asia.
"The Philippines is built for commerce," Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said during virtual launch of Digital Pilipinas, a movement composed of government and private sector to strengthen digitalization in the country.
"Like everyone here, we know this can only be achieved with a whole-of-society approach..that is, all of us working together," he added.
The use of e-commerce has been steadily increasing from 70 percent in 2019 to 76 percent in 2020 and 80.2 percent in 2021.
Based on the figures from the Department of Trade and Industry, online businesses involved in retail trade increased significantly from 1,848 in January to March last year, to 88,575 by end of 2020.
"We saw this especially last year with e-commerce coming to our rescue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many online businesses filled the void, filled the void left by brick-and-mortar businesses affected by the community lockdowns. Online retail, online delivery services, online entertainment, digital services, tele-health, work from home arrangements, digital payments- all of these help us in the past year and continue to do so until now," Lopez said.
The DTI projects an increase in the number of e-commerce enterprises from 500,000 in 2020 to 1 million by 2022.
The country has also embraced financial digitalization when the pandemic hit.
According to the Department of Finance, almost 100 percent of the total number of annual income tax returns were electronically filed this year, from 90 percent in 2020.
“We did not fail to collect revenues when people could not go out to file their income tax returns and pay their taxes due,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
“This is to be considered a major breakthrough, given the fact that only 10 percent of the country’s tax payers make use of digital tools to file their income taxes in 2015 before our administration took over.”
Digital channels were put up to “broaden financial inclusion”, allowing people to buy and sell government T-bonds.
Filipinos living and working abroad can also have easier bank transactions thru the Overseas Filipino Bank.
Market leaders from the private sectors have also carved their place in digitalization of the country— from online retailing, banking, delivery to online gaming.
"Our vision in GCash is finance for all— from making payments and transfers easy and secure.. we are now in the forefront of democratizing financial services by making it affordable and accessible," GCash Chief Customer Officer Winsely Bangit said.
Filipinos are also making waves in the e-gaming industry, ranking high in Mobile Legends and DOTA online games.
"Filipinos are naturally digitally native," Tier One Entertainment’s Tryke Gutierrez said.
"This is one sport that has no limitations for Filipinos. As we continue to win in this space, I feel this is the soft power the Philippines can have," he added.
DIGITAL PILIPINAS AGENDA
The movement— composed of government financial agencies and the private sector set out to tackle 12 problem areas.
These include financial inequality in the country, underdeveloped smart cities, the underserved overseas Filipino market, “unclear mobility future”, foreign dominated e-commerce, and cyber insecurity and vulnerability.
While it is still unclear how the movement will address these, there are activities lined up for the rest of the year.
"We believe that the private sector’s expertise and initiative to adopt digital innovations will help us anticipate the changes in the digital economy. The private sector can help us provide a more nurturing policy environment," Dominguez said.