Businesses of different sizes have been digitally present before the lockdown. Yet, since the ongoing pandemic has forced some to stay and work at their homes and some, unfortunately, to lose their source of income, many online sellers have emerged across different online platforms. A lot of them are seen on Facebook, selling either items or food on groups or their respective pages; while some have taken advantage of e-commerce sites like Shopee and Lazada.

Recent figures from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shared that a total of 75,029 online businesses have registered with the department from January to August this year. Out of this total number, 73,276 online businesses were registered between March 16 (when the Luzon-wide lockdown began) and August 31. This adds to the 1,753 registered businesses from January to mid-March.

As early as May, 9,692 new business names were registered under internet retail, which is nearly 450% higher than the January to mid-March registrations. 33,000 new registrations were recorded in June.

As much as there has been a spike in online shoppers due to the pandemic, coupled by an apparent uptrend in the use of online and cashless transactions, the pandemic has also caused an accelerated increase in small online retailers. Statista shared in its latest overview of Philippine e-commerce that many small and medium enterprises emerged within the online retail market because of the popularity of online shopping.

“Local sellers have made it possible for consumers now to reach their products even though they do not have a physical shop or store,” Statisa’s overview read. “Social media platforms are used, like Facebook and Instagram, among small-scale entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic in the country, turning to small-scale retail sellers have become popular because of the benefits it provides to both sellers and consumers.”

This increase in e-commerce inevitably demands stronger support to boost the sector. One main way seen to enable this boost, according to Secretary Lopez, is updating the eCommerce Act of 2000.

“Twenty years after this pioneering legislation was passed, we need to revisit the law to make it more relevant to the times and future-proofing it. We need to take into account the substantial developments in technology, the widespread use of [the] internet, and the growing e-commerce sector,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement last June.

Particularly, he expressed support for the Internet Transactions Act, which has been approved by the House Committee on Trade in July and is currently being tackled by the Senate trade committee.

“With the bill’s regulatory framework for internet transactions, the bill will promote and support Filipino platforms and businesses based on the principle that domestic online platforms shall be treated under the law equally as offshore non-resident online platforms,” Secretary Lopez said in another statement last month.

“This means domestic online platforms shall be given opportunities to grow and be competitive in the digital market. What’s more, the Senate bill provides incentives to encourage newly registered online enterprises, especially during this time of pandemic, to operate above-ground,” he added. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza