Future of E-Commerce in the Philippines Under the New Administration

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After winning the presidential election in 2022, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is often referred to as Bongbong, there are already expectations that he will commit to his campaign promise of using technology to improve the lives of Filipinos. 

In particular, during one campaign event, he said “We’ll include digital infrastructure, our internet so that it can be faster and cheaper.”

One group that is anticipating his commitment is the E-Commerce Association of the Philippines (ECAP), which said they see e-commerce thriving in the country under Marcos’s presidency. 

In a statement, they said, “ECAP is very much looking forward that the new administration will continue and will bring more opportunities and support for the digital commerce industry especially the infrastructure for information, communications, and technology.” 

Marcos had previously said that he wants to continue the legacy of his predecessor, former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who was said to have provided policy support to e-commerce companies. 

In 2022, the Philippines saw its e-commerce industry grow 16.7 percent to P14 billion. 

E-commerce companies, especially platforms such as Shopee, Lazada, and Grab, also enabled the consumer market to thrive despite strict lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 to stave off the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Modernizing a logistics agency

Apart from his promise for the country’s Internet infrastructure, Marcos also promised during his campaign to modernize the Philippine Post Office (PHLPost), one of the country’s oldest but least developed agencies. Under the plan, the country’s micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) can use the modernized PHLPost to be their logistics partner with the products, filling the market gap between companies and rural areas. 

The modernization of PHLPost has been long in coming. Previous administrations have done little to modernize the country’s postal agency. It was only more recently that former president Duterte had pushed for its modernization, citing the necessity to serve its purpose and to “boost the country’s competitiveness and stimulate economic activities during the period of recovery and digital transition.” 

China effect

Marcos is reportedly more aligned with his predecessor on policy and economic proximity with neighboring China. 

In an article published in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, authors Japhet Quitzon and William Alan Reinsch said Marcos was an ardent supporter of Chinese businesses. He said that Marcos would take frequent trips to China, which had led to the opening of a Chinese consulate in Laoag City. 

Many domestic e-commerce sellers, including those selling through platforms such as Shopee and Lazada, often get their products from manufacturers in China. Indeed, some Chinese sellers have even started selling directly on domestic platforms. This relationship reflects the economic ties between the Philippines and China.  

Continuing Duterte’s legacy

Marcos does not shy away from saying that he will continue Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program, which began as a means to pursue the expansion of existing socio-economic programs. 

One of the results of the Duterte administration was the creation of the “Basta e-Commerce Madali!” roadmap. The project means “It’s easy with e-commerce” in Filipino. The roadmap was created to push businesses in the Philippines to utilize technology to serve consumers. It also includes policies to ensure that local governments protect and support such businesses. 

To support these economic programs, Marcos recently appointed Alfredo Pascual, a former president of the University of the Philippines and a renowned development banker and finance expert. In a previous speech, Pascual said he supported innovation through creativity, which should help Filipinos, especially those in the countryside. 

Implications to the e-commerce industry

As it is, the e-commerce industry in the Philippines seems to still be in a healthy uptrend. Reports show that this industry is expected to grow 11.4% between now until 2027. 

The Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry’s E-Commerce Roadmap had previously said that they want the online business to account for 25% of the country’s GDP by 2020, and despite being sidetracked by the pandemic for two years, that seems to have been almost achieved. 

The DTI is also continuously looking at implementing backend programs to support the e-commerce industry, such as new online payment, tax filing, and logistics programs, to name a few. 

Fintech loves e-commerce 

Some financial technology (fintech) have also embraced e-commerce and it does not seem to be letting amid the domestic and global uncertainties. In fact, fintech firms seem to be taking advantage of the situation. 

One of the early adopters and currently leading the domestic fintech industry is GCash, a product of Globe Telecom. Previously used only for cash transfers for remittance sending, it has expanded to multiple uses for businesses. It delivered on several innovations, most of which targeted sellers. Currently, it is a payment platform on just about all of the major e-commerce platforms. 

A new player, Maya, is also competing in the same space but has expanded to even something else. Formerly called PayMaya, Maya is now both a payment platform and now a bank. This expands its services to just traditional point-of-sales payments but now provides new services to e-commerce companies that were not previously available to them. 

In the coming days, as Marcos pursues his goals, e-commerce companies and fintech providers will continue to make strides toward delivering new ways of addressing Filipino buyers’ retail habits. 

What comes next

With Marcos still early in his presidency, there are still a lot of questions and expectations as to what he will do with the information and communications technology sector, especially with e-commerce. 

Growing support for him stems from his success in rallying millions of Filipinos, which has made many business and community organizations expect him to honor his promises. Hopefully, all these come to fruition, given that he also used technology to influence others to his cause.

   

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