Celia Gonzales, managing director, of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' international department, said government has also gained in putting up measures for sound monetary policy, general regulation, and support for SMEs and export sector.
Aquino, who was guest speaker at the forum on SMEs and Exports: Economic Prospects for 2007, briefed local traders about the Philippine competitiveness agenda and global market prospects for Mindanao exports and SMEs.
He said there is a need for a national competitiveness mindset that brings about results in specific areas so that the country's image to investors will be boosted.
He cited the government's gains in the country's competitiveness with convergence of government and business organizations efforts towards education reform as part of competitive human resources.
He also cited gains in private sector commitments to improve competitiveness with the implementation of the Philippine services roadmap, deployment of business advisors to the state colleges and universities to improve the quality of education.
Academic institutions, training centers, business organizations, he added, have agreed to focus on instituting financial management discipline and strengthening SME centers all over the country.
He said the government is already developing International Organization for Standardiazation (ISO)-aligned standards for all government agencies. But it is still "underway" for eventual adoption.
He also cited unification of various productivity programs of government agencies and private sector organizations.
Aquino said government has gained in improving transaction flows and costs and in developing a "seamless" infrastructure network. He said around 20 priority infrastructure projects vital to competitiveness have already been inked between the government and the private sector with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry leading in the implementation monitoring.
But he acknowledged that the country's geographical condition as an archipelago is an added challenge to transporting goods from one point to another.
Aquino cited gains in effective access to financing when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas agreed to waive the submission of income tax return requirements for micro and small enterprises for the first two years.
He said there are now a total of 204 banks offering microfinance services with total loan portfolio of P3.6 billion compared to only 45 banks six yeas ago.
Gonzales said that in support of the SMEs, the BSP will establish lending programs to encourage the banks' tie-up with industry associations in identifying credit-worthy borrowers and adjust bank regulations (e.g. risk-weighting) based on review of credit scoring models for SMEs.
She said they will also push for the passage of the Credit Information System Act (CISA) and contribute to the Export Promotion Fund (EPF).
But one of the participants said there was nothing new with Aquino's report and wanted more concrete results. He cited lack of coordination among government agencies with competitiveness goals on the one hand and increasing costs on the other. He noted the increase in land rental in agrarian reform communities.
Another participant said that even with the positive picture, local exporters are still lagging behind.