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Export industry’s stakeholders launched The Road to FIRe (Fourth Industrial Revolution) project that aims to enable exporters to utilize game-changing technologies to enhance their competitiveness especially as they adapt to the New Normal amid the pandemic crisis.

Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the FIRe project hopes to serve as a platform to help advocate and to shepherd interested PHILEXPORT members to leverage on technology for business growth.

“For this reason and consistent with the strategies and targets in the Philippine Export Development Plan, we intend to bring this advocacy to the next level with the implementation of The Road to FIRe project,” Ortiz-Luis Jr. said.

He said the pandemic highlighted more the significance of implementing the project, underscoring the need to use technology to crisis-proof businesses in the future.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the launch of The Road to FIRe project with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Labor and Employment, and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) during a third of the three-part general membership meeting of PHILEXPORT.

Trade Undersecretary Bles Lantayona said the Regional Operations Group of the DTI supports the various agenda on the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 by implementing several programs to transform the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) into more innovative and competitive enterprises.

“Our 1,130 Negosyo Centers all over the country can be an information hub for industry 4.0 technologies. Our Negosyo Centers can set up business clinics to promote adoption and linkage with the technology providers. While the support is not much, it will help our MSMEs slowly get back to business while recalibrating its entry as the economy gets back to normal,” she said.

Lantayona said the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program, together with the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship’s Go Negosyo, will look into the possibility of including modules on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Through the KMME program, we want to be able to reach more MSMEs to become smarter entrepreneurs. With the current pandemic, KMME program will continue by embracing the digital world where coaching and mentoring sessions are already conducted online,” she added.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the Covid-19 crisis has changed the way tasks and businesses are being carried on, as more people go online amid the restrictions on mobility.

“Unfortunately, this change in our reality affected so many people especially our MSMEs who are not yet ready to go digital,” he said. “So a lot of our local MSMEs have been affected in terms of operations during this crisis. And this is exactly what we are trying to address here, we want our MSMEs to be FIRe-ready so that they can easily cope when a crisis such as this occurs.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the MOU signing for The Road to FIRe project highlighted their goal to promote “gainful employment” and develop their human resources by sharing expertise and knowledge on various undertakings related to the transition of the MSMEs towards the digital economy.

“The transition to the digital economy is inevitable. This pandemic showed us our MSMEs that adapted new technologies were able to sustain operations and survive the impact of disruptions in the economy,” he said.

DAP President and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Engelbert Caronan Jr. said the partnership can serve as a venue for collaborative discussions to understand the FIRe.

He particularly cited DAP’s recently launched Smarter Philippines through Data Analytics R&D, Training, and Adoption (SPARTA) funded by the DOST and being co-implemented with private partners.

Caronan said they are opening to the PHILEXPORT members the training scholarship program on data science and analytics. 

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