I was in a popular toy store one time looking for a suitable birthday gift for a pre-schooler. I walked to the kids’ aisle where plastic clay more commonly known as “Play Doh” was sold. Presented in neon colors, they were very attractive and appealing. Kids could make almost anything using their imagination and their tactile skills. Then I looked at the fine print of the package: “Made in the U.S.A.” I looked at the other toys. Most of them were also made in other countries.
A question comes to mind: Why could we not make these products ourselves here in our own country? We have the capability – we have engineers and technicians. Sure, there are those who say we need to upgrade the quality of our engineering schools to produce graduates who will make creative and inventive products and not just operators and maintenance staff. We also have local industrialists willing to partner with foreign investors.
So far, there has been signs of progress. There is a revival in the growth of our manufacturing sector. Where before 2010, manufacturing was seen as a dying sector, it has spurted back to life in an exciting and robust manner. Roberto Batungbacal, Director of Dow Chemical in an interview with ANC, noted that “from 2010 to 2015, the manufacturing sector has added P738 Billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) reaching P2.7 Trillion GVA, growing an average of 7.3% per annum, nearly double the annual growth rate of the previous decade, which was pegged at 4%. We still have a couple of quarters to measure but the growth is not expected to be any less. More importantly, manufacturing labor productivity gained a huge 30% increase (based on GVA current prices from 2010 to 2014) after levelling in previous decades.”
Of the 20 sub-sectors in manufacturing, he said the top three were food manufacturing, electronics and semi-conductors and the chemical sector. These sub-sectors were divided into low, medium to high technology sectors but all sub sectors contributed to 23.2% of GDP in 2015.
It would be good to dovetail this encouraging trend with institutionalized programs that would engage the education, government and private sectors to work together to further boost the growth and expansion of our manufacturing industry.
This is where creativity, innovation and inventions could be encouraged and nurtured from as early as the high school levels. Dumaguete is known to be an educational center and a university town. It has its own Dumaguete City Science High School. Critical thinking and innovative ideas can be encouraged through class activities and workshops not just in science high schools but to all private and public high schools in Dumaguete and throughout Negros Oriental. It is not enough to just participate periodically in science fairs or local/regional competitions to bring out the best in Filipino inventions and innovations. This has to be institutionalized as part of the science curricula in the high schools.
This is where a tripartite partnership would come into play. High School curricula can be tailored to fit the needs of emerging, sustainable and viable industries in the country. In the high technology manufacturing sector for example, technology subjects and the inclusion of more and advanced levels of Research and Development (R and D) subjects in schools and colleges can help ensure the growth of the sector. Government and the private sector can contribute by doing joint ventures and investing in more and better capital equipment. All three, capital equipment, technology and R and D are essential components needed in high technology manufacturing sectors.
For our part, we can buy locally-produced and manufactured goods to promote our industries. Manufacturing is the main engine for growth in our nation’s economy. We can no longer keep importing and buying foreign-made goods. If we want to move from a society of consumers to a society of producers, we need to start now. There is so much at stake as we work towards a legacy of a progressive country.