Interview with Mr Elmer Hernandez

Face2Face
Mr Elmer Hernandez
Mr Elmer Hernandez
Undersecretary IIG
Department (Ministry) of Trade and Industry, Govt of Philippines
Department (Ministry) of Trade and Industry, Govt of Philippines

The US is your motherland’s top export market. To what extent has the recession and currency instability in this market affected the Philippine Textile and Clothing Industry?

The general situation is that the garments and textile industry is going through a very difficult phase of survival. The “recession” in the US, being our major market, where almost 70% of total garments export go, has adversely affected the ability of our manufacturers to "sell", for the simple reason the US market is not buying.

According to industry sources, there are unconfirmed reports that major brands in the US with stand-alone boutique stores are shutting down stores across the US. Similar to what we hear about the Starbucks story of late that Starbucks will be shutting down outlets worldwide.

If this happens, then it is a simple play of market forces; there is just too much supply- and no demand. Understandably American consumers are cutting down on expenses, while apparel, supposedly is a basic commodity- we may be seeing a major slump in point-of-sale costs in US department stores and boutiques.

Kindly apprise us with brief information about Philippine Tropical Fabric (PTF) and its market updates?

The relentless research and development (R&D) efforts of the Philippine Textile Research Institute on the utilization of indigenous fibers such as abaca, banana, and pineapple for textiles has led to the development of indigenous fiber-blended fabrics known as Philippine Tropical Fabric (PTF). The developed fabrics which are suitable of varied end uses has gained the acceptance of both local and foreign designers, uniform manufacturers and selected home linen industry.

According to the Textile Millers Association of the Philippines (TMAP), the production of Philippine Tropical Fabric (PTF) has not taken of because of the availability of raw materials. The problem is how to produce and come up with a critical mass or volume of fibers to feed a spinning mill. In other word, there is a problem on logistics because the raw materials come from various parts of the country.

Countries like China, Japan and Italy have signified interest on the fabric specially on the pineapple silk which is usually made into Barong Tagalog formal wear men or gowns for women. The pineapple silk cloth is currently being produced by handloom weaving in Aklan, but not in big volume.

What the Philippines need at the moment is to invite foreign investors in this area in order to produce the material in commercial quantity.

Besides Abaca and Banana fibres, what other projects are undertaken to encourage eco-textiles sector?

Through the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) the following projects are currently being undertaken.

  • Natural Fabrics R & D Program
  • The program will judiciously utilize and maximize the abundant natural resources that will result in the production of globally competitive textiles, which are distinctly Filipino.

    The relentless research and development (R&D) efforts of the Philippine Textile Research Institute on the utilization of indigenous fibers such as abaca, banana and pineapple for textiles have led to the development of indigenous fiber-blended fabrics known as Philippine Tropical Fabric (PTF). The developed fabrics which are suitable for varied end uses have gained the acceptance of both local and foreign designers, uniform manufacturers and the selected home linen industry

  • Natural Dyes R & D Program
  • This focuses on the utilization of potential dye-yielding plants in the Philippines. The extraction and textile application of 35 indigenous dye sources were already established by PTRI.

    PTRI, in its quest to provide environment-friendly textile products, is continuously searching for advancement on its natural dye technology for textile application. To date, the technology was able to optimize the dye extraction and application methods for 25 natural dye-yielding plants to add to the 35 initially reported. Moreover, dye powder from 13 different plant sources produced using the spray drier which are regularly being monitored and evaluated for their dye performance and shelf life. Two powders from “talisay” and “duhat” that are abundant in the country have now undergone powder production optimization for a more cost-effective, improved powder yielding and quality.

  • Silk Industry R & D Program
  • PTRI pursued the silk industry development program to achieve commercialization and global competitiveness in cocoon and silk yarn production.

    To push forward the development of the silk industry, PTRI requested from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for a dispatch of a Sericulture Expert to review and assess the work done in the past and on-going sericulture activities in the various area of the country.

    At your ministry level, what all encouragements are made to attract foreign investment in the select industry?

    To attract foreign investors, we have to highlight the reward of doing business in the country as compared to doing so elsewhere. For one, the Philippines has a highly skilled labor force. The Filipino workers are capable of making garments with complicated styles and intricate embroideries and designs, which are at par with the world’s best.

    In addition to that, there is a cast range of investment opportunities in garment production-related services such as sample making, fabric designing, pattern making, washing, drying, printing and finishing. There is also an opportunity for investment in the commercial production of indigenous fibers such as banana, pineapple, abaca, ramie and silk which are abundant in the Philippines.

    A number of incentives offered to investors include: income tax holidays; additional deduction for incremental labor expenses during the first five years from registration; tax and duty exemptions from taxes and duties on imported spare parts when brought in through the firms’ own bonded manufacturing warehouses; unrestricted use of consigned equipment; employment of foreign nationals; and tax credit for imported raw materials used for the exported products.

    Closing the conversation, any note you may wish to leave with our visitors/members worldwide?

    The garment and textile sector in the Philippines is a fundamental part of the country’s economy. As mentioned earlier, it has an estimated 400,000 employees making it one of the largest employers in the manufacturing sector.

    To further increase its competitiveness in the global market, there is a need for the industry to restructure into larger manufacturing units, and to re-equip itself with modern high-tech machineries in order to secure higher productivity. On a hopeful note, there has been a considerable increase in foreign investments in the past years. Much of this has come from other Asian producers, who are regarding the Philippines as an attractive location for textile and garment activities. Research and investment is also going into the development of indigenous fibers – such as abaca, banana, pineapple and silk – in order to ease the country’s lack of locally sourced raw materials.

    The future of the Philippine garments industry, albeit currently experiencing great challenges ahead with peso appreciation and increasing competition from other Asian countries, remains hopeful and is still expected to be a great contributor of employment and revenue for the country.

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    Published on: 11/08/2008

    DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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