f the government does not provide assistance to exporters in the next two months, more and more of them may be forced to lay workers off and even close shop within the year, exporters? organizations said Tuesday.
Among 1,157 members of 13 exporters? associations, 177 have ceased operations, said Ricardo Sales, head of the Christmas Décor Producers and Exporters Association of the Philippines.
The worst hit is the furniture industry, with the Cebu Furniture Industry Foundation reporting 67 plant closures and the Chamber of Furniture Industry of the Philippines reporting 34 more, Sales said.
Data from various industry associations as of Feb. 18 showed 126 handicraft and footwear exporters had also closed shop, displacing 3,453 workers.
?If the demand continues to be low for export products, even the most stable of our exporters fear that they may have to stop operations if no relief comes from the government within the next two months,? various industry associations said in a joint statement.
?The decimation of the Philippine export sector today will also mean no export companies will exist when the world economy begins to recover. We project that tough years await the global economy. Tough prospects demand bold and immediate decisions and actions,? the statement said.
Home Accents of the Philippines Inc. president Amaya Bengzon presented various forms of assistance that the government could give exporters to prevent them from going under.
These include release of the P1-billion Export Promotion Fund, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ?verbally approved in principle;? subsidies for Filipino exporters participating in international shows; establishment of a permanent showroom or a Comprehensive Export Promotion Center; exemption of exporters from the 12 percent value-added tax on raw materials; and easy access to financing.
?The export industry needs emergency relief ? a national program to help exporters, similar to what the United States and the European Union are doing,? Bengzon said. ?We see export revenues dropping 2.9 percent this year, but exports can do better than this if government aid will be given.?
Pedro Sepulveda of the Cebu Gifts, Toys and Housewares Manufacturers and Exporters Association Inc. added that other ways government could help exporters would be to freeze wage increases for the time being, impose a moratorium on foreclosures, and reduce interest rates.
The Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency ?should be made to lower rates? to micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises, he said. ?There also has to be a specific fund to address our sector?s problems,? he added.
?Action should be taken within the next two months,? Sepulveda said. ?We can?t afford to wait. The time is now. We should stop the bleeding now. Don?t wait for the bleeding to stop because there?s no longer any blood left in the industry.? With editing by INQUIRER.net