THE Philippines must revive its textile industry following global supply chain disruptions during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, which cut off the garment industry from imported raw material, Philexport textiles, yarn, and fabric trustee Robert M. Young said.

“Right now, the Philippines is the only country without a textile industry,” he said in a webinar Wednesday, adding that lockdowns in China delayed textile imports for the garments industry.

“If we had factories nearby, we could have been supplied from these textile companies.”

The Philippines cannot continue to rely on imports, he said, and must attain some degree of self-reliance.

Mr. Young said that after the crisis, garment retailers will be focused on selling their remaining inventory, adding that consumers will likely be more conservative in buying clothing.

“The orders of the garment and apparel (from retailers) will be reduced by about 50%,” he said, adding that 50-70% of recent orders have been cancelled by buyers.

To boost the industry, Mr. Young said Internet and manufacturing technology capabilities must be improved, noting that bad Internet connectivity created difficulties.

“Most of the time, signals were dropped, especially in the provinces… the government should do something about the Internet speed because this is really vital,” he said, adding that factory machinery must be upgraded to improve efficiency.

Mr. Young also said the Philippines should continue its negotiations for free trade agreements (FTA), especially with the US.

“Selected goods such as garments, apparel, wearables can enter the USA tax-free, meaning we will have more business. Foreign buyers will be buying more from Manila because they will be paying zero tax,” he said.

Mr. Young said that he expects an industry recovery after 18 months, in the best-case scenario. — Jenina P. Ibañez