TRADE Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said retailers must continue their digital transformation to ride the wave of e-commerce that gained momentum during the pandemic.

Mr. Pascual said during the Philippine Retailers Association second quarter general membership meeting in Makati City on Thursday that retailers need to seize the opportunity in digital as online transactions rise.

“I encourage you to continue engaging in digital transformation. The government has been working to ease and widen retailers’ adoption of the digital economy. Government efforts on policy are guided by e-commerce as ‘easy commerce’ — safe, reliable, easy, and efficient everywhere. We don’t want digital platforms to be difficult for all involved, including merchants and consumers,” he added.

Mr. Pascual described digital merchant payments as a critical tool for facilitating transactions, especially for small businesses.

“I think if we are able to digitalize the operations of sari-sari stores or other similar small retailers, we will be able to build up a database that could eventually be the basis for banks (to evaluate) the creditworthiness of small retailers,” Mr. Pascual said.

Mr. Pascual said the DTI projects that P56 billion worth of additional foreign investment and over hundreds of thousands of jobs will be generated five years from the enactment of the amended Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

On Dec. 10 last year, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11595 that amended Republic Act No. 8762, or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

Under the amended law, the minimum paid-up capital of foreign retailers was reduced to P25 million from $2.5 million, while the minimum investment requirement per store was lowered to P10 million in order to attract more foreign investors.

“By simplifying the requirements of foreign entry, the law allows our country to be more competitive, facilitate more foreign equity into the retail trade industry, and generate greater economic and employment benefits. Liberalizing retail trade does not only encourage more investors to the country, but it also helps create a more competitive environment,” Mr. Pascual said.

Mr. Pascual said that the DTI remains positive about growth in the retail industry, and asked retailers to help safeguard consumer interests.

He promised to ensure the availability of basic and prime commodities “at affordable prices” and to “closely monitor prices… so that there is no manipulation, there is no profiteering, there is no hoarding, and there is no cartelization, and when needed, negotiating with manufacturers and producers.” — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave