THE Trade department said it will focus its economic recovery efforts on increasing manufacturing capacity in the Philippines in order to reduce import dependence.

In an online event Monday, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said that its economic revival program will encourage modernization in manufacturing.

“We’re still looking at modernizing and continuing with an integrated industrialization strategy. (Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises) are part of that integrated, industrial capacity that we are trying to build,” he said.

“The more we have the capacity, the more we will have the capacity to supply local demand. Hindi po tayo mag-i-import dahil (We will not need to import because) we will be able to increase that capacity.”

He said such policies would help address the trade deficit.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the trade deficit in May was $1.87 billion, narrowing from the year-earlier $3.65 billion. The trade deficit in the first five months was $9.84 billion, also narrower than the $17.79-billion deficit from a year earlier.

Mr. Lopez said the goal is to improve the country’s ability to produce higher-value goods and services.

“Let’s say for electronics, higher design component para po mas mataas ang presyo (to realize higher prices),” he said.

“We will contribute to socioeconomic development with all the manufacturing and services we can provide, helping the infra(structure), the health sector, and in the end creating more employment to lower poverty levels.”

Government efforts will include strengthening the preference for domestic goods in public procurement. Mr. Lopez said the country should also accelerate investment promotion in basic necessities like food and healthcare, smart manufacturing, infrastructure, and transport.

Investment promotion, for Mr. Lopez, includes providing incentives and boosting infrastructure.

He said that it is important to revitalize demand.

“All this will lead into encouraging more production capacity so that we can capture the demand. Tayo po ang magsu-supply (We will provide the supply). Local, domestic capacity that will supply the demand rather than imports.”

The Trade department has been participating in a campaign to encourage Filipino consumers to buy locally-produced goods. — Jenina P. Ibañez