Three industries deserve govt help

The theory of industrial developments states that the industrial authorities of a country should focus on, and prioritize the flow of resources to, goods in whose production that country has displayed special skill and a competitive edge. There are at least three products made in this country that meet the criterion set by the theory and thus deserve unstinting government support. The three are shoes, guns and stringed musical instruments.

The Philippines makes good shoes, and they are made in the city of Marikina. In the last decades of the twentieth century, Marikina shoes achieved acclaim beyond this country’s shores. Just how famous Marikina-made shoes became in foreign markets is best illustrated by the story about a wealthy Filipino businessman who shopped in a swanky Fifth Avenue store to buy a special take-home gift for his wife. The salesman told him, “Sir, how about some beautiful Italian shoes? These here are handcrafted in the small Italian town of Marichina.” The story may or may not be apocryphal, but it goes to show how far and how high up the market ladder Marikina-made shoes have gone.

The Marikina shoe industry has been losing luster in recent years, but the city’s famous shoes came back to the center of public attention with the statement of a number of lady guests at the recent State of the Nation event that they were wearing Marikina-made shoes. That statement was a real shot in the arm for Marikina’s shoe manufacturers.

The development and progress of the Marikina shoe industry has largely taken place through the efforts of the city (formerly municipal) government, specifically the Marikina Shoe Industry Development Office. Marikina shoe manufacturers no longer have anything to prove. They have shown that, with good design, good raw materials—i.e. first-class leather—they can compete with the best that the world has to offer.

It is high time the government, specifically, the Department of Trade and Industry, gave the Marikina shoe industry the serious and sustained attention it deserves. With the national government working hand in hand with the city government, foreign shoe buyers will come to know that Marikina is a thriving city in the Philippines, not a small town in Italy.

Another domestic industry that has remained small, almost certainly because of its somewhat controversial character, is the handgun industry of Cebu, centered on the city of Danao. From time to time one reads or hears media stories about violent crimes being committed with the use of paltik handguns. The use of the word paltik gives the reader or listener the impression that Danao-made weapons are not comparable with the best in world markets. Maybe so, but the fact remains that the potential is there for the development of a first-class handgun industry in Danao City and its environs. Indeed, if the media reports are to be believed, the so-called paltik weapons do their jobs with deadly accuracy.

There is a Philippine company that manufactures rifles, with government approval and supervision, for the military and for export. Rifles are just as deadly as handguns. If the government can support the manufacture of rifles in this country, why can’t it work with the Danao and Cebu authorities to establish a handgun industry in the Philippines? That way, the paltik industry will be brought out of the shadows and even become the Colt Industries of this country.

Finally, the stringed musical instruments industry. The Philippines is acknowledged to be a producer of some of the finest guitars in the world. This is attested to by the guitars that foreign tourists bring out with them when their luggage loads permit. The Cebu guitar industry is a standout.

True, violins and similar stringed instruments are more sensitive and are more difficult to produce. But, given their dexterity and experience—often handed down from generation to generation—can the guitar-makers of Cebu and other places not be helped to move up the scale and try their hands at making violins and cellos? The answer is, they can.

Here again the government needs to get entirely involved, including financially. Since the guitar makers have thus far not shown any inclination toward organizing themselves, DTI can bring the producers together and make of them a regular, integrated industry. Guitars and other stringed instruments marked “Made in the Philippines” should, and can, take their well-deserved places in the world’s concert halls and entertainment venues.


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