The Philippine garment printing industry: Where are we now?

29 Aug 2019

With lots of trends happening in garment printing globally, is the Philippines catching up?

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

Only a few people get concerned enough to ask where the clothes we wear come from. Those who ask are often someone who has a keen interest in the subject, but the one most concerned are those that live a sustainable lifestyle.

People will usually think of different retail stores, international labels, hip local enterprises, and even thrift shops, but it is rare to think of clothing as imports and as outcomes of intense production hours from various raw materials.

At present, more people are showing concern over the wastes produced solely by fast fashion. Manufacturers and shop owners are growing concerned over the rising prices of products and raw materials, as well as of labor.

It is when talking about sustainability and the environment that we can ask more questions about the garment printing industry, particularly in the Philippines which is considered to be an essential source of cheap raw materials and labor.

Garment Printing in the Philippines

The garment and textile export industry was considered a sunrise industry in the 1990s. According to the US Comtrade, the sector used to be a USD 3 billion industry in the 1990s. In fact, during the 1970s, the country was ranked 6th among the top exporter of apparel to the United States.

However, the export of the industry trade has steadily declined from 2005 to 2016, dropping from USD 2287 million to USD 1226 million worth of garments respectively.

This was attributed to the ending of the Multi-Fiber Agreement, which allowed preferential tariffs on the country's exports of garments and textiles. The MFA was replaced with the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing in 1995, to lift the existing quota allocations during the MFA.

The MFA abolishment removed quotas which opened up the textile trade for developed countries, ultimately impacting the still smaller producing countries including the Philippines.

Director Celia Elumba of the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) says the MFA "did not promote development in developing countries." This, along with the country's shift in priorities to other sectors, led to a substantial weakening of textile production, and even more in our clothing production.

The Current State of the Industry

At present, the Philippine garments and textile industry is beginning to gear itself up to regain its reputation as a competitive player in both domestic and international scenes. The government is conducting more and more strategic initiatives, projects, and partnerships with leading manufacturers and important stakeholders.

Today's Philippine garment printing industry is still seen as one with the most potential to generate jobs needed in the country. Philippine government agencies are working together to amplify their initiatives to help the industry regain back their momentum.

The Board of Investments, for example, is rebuilding its initiatives to raise the industry again, mainly through the Manufacturing Resurgence Program (MRP). BOI Undersecretary Rodolfo says they are putting more attention to "securing market access in key export markets such as Japan, Europe, and the United States, to Free Trade Agreements and Preferential Trade Arrangements including the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the GSP+."

The garment printing industry has just become one of the domestic industries under the MRP. “More importantly, this program will help us create more jobs and income opportunities for our people,” Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

The agency is also developing a Roadmap for the Garments and Textile Industry, which is expected to lay down the foundations of the industry's growth based on the current situation and by identifying the sector barriers.

The PTRI, the textile and research arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), on the other hand, aims to "close the fashion loop" to bridge the gap between the production of raw materials as well as the distribution of apparel.

PTRI also highlights the role of the sector in making the Philippine clothing industry sustainable. According to Director Elumba, "It's about making sure Filipinos have enough to clothe ourselves; it's about adding more value into products, adding more jobs."

What’s next?

Prospects for the Philippine garment printing sector is bright, especially that we are now on the onset of the 4th industrial revolution (FIRe).

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) in their study on preparing the country for the FIRe, described the new era to be “marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields."

The technologies used in garment printing, a part of the FIRe, have great potential to connect people through the web, improve the efficiency of organizations, and help regenerate the environment through better asset management.

In an interview, Ricoh Philippines President and CEO Eric Sulit said: "The local printing industry is incredibly exciting right now as the quality and accessibility of technology continues to grow.

Due to the fast-paced improvements in technology as well as a myriad of other variables, the country's garment and textile exports are expected to grow between 10-20 percent increase this year as some orders are now being shifted from China to the Philippines, says DTI.

The Philippines is seen as one of the markets in Southeast Asia to lead printing growth following the trade war between the US and China. More garment manufacturers are transferring their operations to the Philippines to avoid high tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese materials, further strengthening the sector locally.

Are you interested in putting up a garment printing business in the Philippines?

New technology is always interesting. In the Philippines, enabling the use of modern technology in manufacturing means considering how the local market would react to such changes. In putting up a garment printing business, you may consider Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing; a process said to be better than the traditional silk screen method.

Ricoh, an international leading supplier of state-of-the-art electronic devices and photographic equipment, among others, is here in the Philippines. They have a line of DTG printers that would improve productivity, efficiency, and the quality of work and prints in various garments you aim to produce.

To know more about Ricoh Philippines and its products, you may visit their official website here.



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