By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Feeling the brunt from the proliferation of small Chinese-owned retail businesses, domestic retailers yesterday urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other concerned government agencies to keep China out of the small and medium enterprise (SME) business and prioritize the Filipino SME entrepreneurs.
In a statement, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) said they support the call of Sen. Panfilo Lacson to DTI and other government agencies to ban China from venturing into the small and medium businesses. This call should not only apply to Chinese investors but to all foreign investors entering the SME businesses, the PRA said.
“We now see the proliferation of Chinese restaurants, Korean groceries, foreign operators in our tiangges even before the repeal of the existing law. In effect, they are operating in violation of the Retail Trade Law,” the PRA said.
To protect the Filipino SMEs, the PRA has been fighting for the retention of the $2,500,000 minimum investment for foreign retailers. There is moved to repeal this law to bring down the minimum threshold to just $250,000.
“The existing law protects our Filipino SME entrepreneurs. This is a fight for the SMEs in our country,” said PRA.
PRA Vice Chairman Roberto S. Claudio said they are speaking for the future of small Filipino entrepreneurs because the big retailers can take care of themselves.
“We are already facing foreign competition and we are able to be competitive. But our small retailers are being eased out not only in Boracay but in many other areas in the country,” he said.
According to Claudio, the biggest deterrent for this is to keep the minimum investment from foreign retailers at the $2.5-million level.
“This will encourage foreign retailers to joint venture with Filipino entrepreneurs to pursue if they want to do business in the Philippines. It’s a win situation to encourage more foreign investment at the same time protecting our SME Filipino entrepreneurs,” PRA said.
Lacson said that allowing China SMEs to do business in the SME category such as running variety stores, restaurants, merchandizing that require only small investment could be alarming as it would deprive domestic SMEs of opportunities. Instead, he said, China businesses with big investments should be welcomed.
Small Chinese merchandises and some restaurants that operate like small canteens for laborers have sprouted all over Metro Manila. Their staff are also mostly Chinese-speaking people who cannot speak Tagalog or English.