Initiatives to revive, enhance competitiveness of creative textile industry pushed, says DTI exec

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THE country is working to adopt innovation and enabling technologies and market- oriented research and development (R&D) to boost the competitiveness of the creative textile industry so it can meet needs of the domestic and export markets.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary for the Competitive and Innovation Group Dr. Rafaelita Aldaba cited trade performance of the textile yarn/fabric in 2020 when exports reached US$282 million while imports at $891 million.

“So you have this rising external trade deficit arising from the industry because exports are very small while our imports are rising. While it really adds to the deficit of the country but at the same time, this could represent a potential opportunity for us to really develop the industry. We try to identify those currently imported materials that can be produced locally,” she said during the virtual Tela conference.

On the other hand, Aldaba said while imports of the garments industry were quite small relative to exports last year, imports have been rising from 2010 to 2019.

To revive and enhance the competitiveness of the creative textile industry, Aldaba underscored the need to implement the roadmap focusing on innovation and market-oriented R&D, and measures to address the supply and value chain gaps.

“This would also include logistics, the adoption of innovation and enabling technologies, developing sustainable textile innovations using natural fibers, and supporting our innovative startups and other enterprises. We need to improve the productivity of the industry, attract more investments, and upgrade our operations using new technologies and again the importance of strengthening the upstream and downstream linkages to make our supply and value chains more resilient,” she added.

Aldaba considered one “bright spot” of the sector the production of natural textile fibers such as abaca, banana Cavendish and pineapple which are grown in various regions in the country.

“While this represents a huge potential for the industry, I think it’s really important at this point for us to come up with more market-oriented research on these natural fibers, along with a market study that would assess the potential demand, along with the other opportunities for natural fibers towards more sustainable textile innovation,” she said.

Aldaba also identified textile products where the country has comparative advantage that include coconut, abaca, ramie and other vegetable textile fibers; twine, cordage, ropes and cables, whether or not plaited or braided; tapestries, handwoven and needle-worked tapestries; and fabrics and narrow woven.

“For the opportunities, we have homegrown textile weaving and production which we can develop as a creative industry and another important opportunity would be for us to tap our Filipino designers and creativity. There are new technologies that we could adapt in order to improve the competitiveness of our industry,” she said.

Aldaba said government agencies provide support measures to the sector, with the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Textile Research Institute aiming to spur growth in the textile and garments through initiatives in innovation and R&D.

On the other hand, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority provides various modules and courses on weaving and embroidery; while the DTI and the Board of Investments link and integrate garments, textiles and the fashion industry; provides incentives; and offers support for the micro, small and medium enterprises and startups, she added.

Apart from these government support measures, Aldaba said it is imperative to accelerate commercialization of textile R&D; develop degree programs in textile and garment technology, fashion and fashion design programs; and trainings on international standards and quality assurance leading to certification.

She said industry players aim to sell products they develop both to the domestic and overseas markets at the same time enhance their participation in the textile and garments global value chain. (PHILEXPORT NEWS AND FEATURES)