651. The Philippines would like to thank Japan and the co-sponsors of document IP/C/W/667 for this timely and relevant contribution to the policy discourse on MSMEs and the importance of intellectual property rights to sustaining their competitiveness in the global marketplace.
652. Like a wide majority of WTO Members, the Philippines has long valued MSMEs as important drivers of the domestic economy, comprising 99.5% of the total number of establishments, of which 89.9% are micro-enterprises, 9.2% are small enterprises, and 0.4% are medium-sized enterprises. It has long been a universally accepted truth that a robust, dynamic, and innovative MSME sector is critical to achieving our national development goals.
653. At the same time, for the Philippines to be able to compete globally, a purposeful and effective national innovation policy is needed to transform the Philippine economy into a knowledge-driven and innovative economy. To achieve this, an effective and predictable rules-based regime for the protection and promotion of intellectual property rights that benefits not just large multinational corporate investors, but also MSMEs in equal measure, would be indispensable.
654. The Philippines' policy environment to support MSMEs has long been a prominent feature of the national government's medium-term development plans over successive administrations. Despite this, MSMEs have not innovated as much as large firms. To encourage MSMEs to invest more in innovation, public interventions that are adapted and tailor-fit to their specific needs have proven to be necessary. To cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, ongoing entrepreneurship programmes and other support measures for MSMEs implemented by government will be enhanced and actively promoted for greater awareness of the importance of innovation and IP.
655. Under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the Philippine Government made a conscious policy decision that a coordinated, seamless, and complete package of enterprise assistance for MSMEs can help the development of a vibrant IP culture that supports inclusive growth and innovation. Connecting and integrating the key elements and stakeholders of the Philippine innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is crucial. Several important pieces of legislation were enacted to make the policy environment for MSMEs more conducive to innovation.
656. The Philippine Innovation Act (RA 11293), signed into law in April 2019, is expected to accelerate the progress of the Philippines' efforts to build a more innovative economy, starting with integrating and synchronizing all government agencies' programmes and projects to link academe with the industry through a whole-of government approach to innovation policy. The law also builds a strong base for our internet infrastructure, brings science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM education to the fore in the curricula of our educational institutions, and raises awareness on the IP tools Filipinos can use to maximize the economic returns of their inventions and innovative ideas.
657. The Innovative Start-up Act (RA 11337), signed also in April 2019, seeks to provide start-ups with easy access to funding and other services and capacitate MSMEs to penetrate and operate competitively in large international markets.
658. Meanwhile, the Personal Property Security Act (RA 11057) establishes IP as intangible property that is registrable as collateral for credits/loans that also provides MSMEs an additional option for access to finance.
659. Coordinated strategies have been implemented to promote the use of IP tools to MSMEs, traditional producers, and technical and vocational schools. Such strategies were eventually consolidated into the National Intellectual Property Strategy 2020-2025, an agenda to harness intellectual property for innovation, creativity, and knowledge generation; for entrepreneurship and competitiveness; and to achieve public policy goals such as universal access to health care, agricultural self-sufficiency and inclusive growth.
660. In implementing this strategy, the full panoply of IP tools should be made more accessible to MSMEs to incentivize them to protect their innovations. Utility models, trademarks, collective marks, geographical indications, and industrial designs have the potential to address inclusive innovation goals.
661. Among the major programmes is the Juana-Make-A-Mark Programme through which the Philippine Intellectual Property Office (IPOPHIL) waives certain fees to MSMEs handled by or comprising of a woman entrepreneur or innovator. The IPOPHL expanded the Juana-Make-A-Mark programme to cover women filers for patents, UMs, and designs under the Juana Invent and Juana Design.
662. The IPOPHIL also implemented the Inventor Assistance Programme which provides free legal advice on patent applications and free basic seminars on patent search and drafting, as well as the IP Depot, an online marketplace where MSMEs can market their IP-protected products for free.
663. Notably, our IPOPHIL will soon partner with our Trade Ministry's Global MSME Academy to assist MSMEs in developing their IP strategy.
664. To improve the innovation performance of our MSMEs, regional inclusive innovation centres were established, linking public and private stakeholders together to serve as linchpin of productive collaboration between and among industries, universities, government agencies, local government units (LGUs), start-ups, MSMEs, R&D laboratories, S&T parks, incubators, investors, among many other agents in the innovation ecosystem.
665. There are several other support programmes and priorities for MSMEs include the following:
a. Strengthening and expanding one-stop-shops for MSMEs, which provide services such as certification, licensing, capability training, production, and marketing of products/ services; services can be expanded to provide business mentorship, particularly for startups, as well as creative and design services that aid in transforming ideas/ prototypes into commercially viable products and services;
b. Establishing regional start-up offices or hubs that can serve as a platform for MSMEs to connect and network with industry experts as well as function as business incubators for stakeholders in the regions;
c. Fostering greater cooperation among actors in the MSME support network (i.e., incubators, accelerators, small business development centres, export assistance centres) by deepening and strengthening their involvement and engagement with stakeholders, including industry experts;
d. Building and/or strengthen MSME partnerships with academe and larger players in industry for mentorship programmes for innovation and technology-related training programmes and activities; and
e. Strengthening the Start-up Ecosystem Development Programme (SEDP) and provide support programmes and other forms of assistance to start-ups and other Members of the community.
666. The Philippine Government has adopted a combination of strategies to help Philippine MSMEs innovate their businesses through the use of IP. These strategies involve programmes that not only directly apply IP tools or make such tools more accessible and targeted, but also programmes that indirectly promote a policy environment that is more conducive to innovation.
667. Although we still have a long way to go, some progress has certainly been made.
668. Recently, the Philippines reached its highest ranking thus far (50) in the Global Innovation Index for 2020, after placing as low as 100 in 2014. The Philippines together with other three economies has made the most significant progress in the Global Innovation Index innovation ranking over time.
669. We will continue to build on this agenda for more inclusive and innovative MSMEs, and will continue to look to an effective and responsive intellectual property regime to make this happen.