The Department of Trade and Industry is encouraging exporters to explore the online marketplace after merchandise exports dropped in the first quarter of the year as the rest of the world struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.

The DTI cited the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, which showed merchandise exports dropping by 24.9 percent in March alone to $4.5 billion from $6 billion in the same month last year.

This led to a 5.2-percent decline in the first quarter to $15.7 billion from $16.6 billion in the same three-month period in 2019.

The data showed that this was the first time in 2020 wherein exports fell both in terms of year-on-year and year-to-date figures.

“We are saddened but not surprised,” DTI-Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) director Senen M. Perlada said in a statement on Friday. “Right now we are studying the global market to help Philippine exports respond to the changing demands brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Due to the travel constraints, we recommend exporters to explore online marketspaces as a strategy even after the pandemic,” he added.

Under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the DTI said that export-oriented businesses would remain operational. It also issued memorandum circulars to reiterate the unhampered movement of cargo during the ECQ.

Perlada made this appeal last month, noting that businesses should look at marketspaces more like online platforms than geographic spaces during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If there’s one thing that the Enhanced Community Quarantine taught us, it’s that we can explore the possibilities in the digital space,” he previously said.

Aside from being present in online marketplaces, he said that all businesses should have their own website. Citing the results of a recent survey conducted by the DTI-EMB, Perlada said that only 40 percent of exporters have a website.

“Not having a website is okay if you’re selling products or services domestically. But it is unacceptable if you are exporting to other countries,” he said. —Roy Stephen C. Canivel

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