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publication January 11, 2022

Trade Facilitation Challenges for Women Traders and Customs Brokers in the Philippines

Meeting with the Philippines Chamber of Commerce

Meeting with the Philippines Chamber of Commerce © Deborah Campos/World Bank

The Philippines has been one of the most dynamic economies in the East Asia Pacific region with a steady increase in average annual economic growth from 4.5% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2019. With increasing urbanization, a growing middle class, and a large and young population, the Philippines’ economic dynamism is rooted in strong consumer demand supported by a vibrant labor market. While the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted economic growth in the Philippines, like elsewhere around the globe, the economy has started to recover with a 3.7% year-on-year expansion in the first half of 2021. With continued recovery and reform efforts, the country is getting back on track. Trade can play a key role in these recovery efforts.

Trade in the Philippines, however, is often restricted by non-tariff measures as well as high trade costs and regulatory burdens. Although the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act was enacted in 2016 to modernize customs rules and procedures to expedite trade and improve the delivery of customs operations, there is more work that can be done to enhance the trade environment, particularly across the other trade-related government agencies, to ensure that the benefits of trade facilitation are equally afforded to men and women.

To identify the specific challenges that men and women face in cross-border trade and determine where further reforms can be made, the World Bank Group completed the Trade and Gender Study in the Philippines. Over 2,000 traders and customs brokers were interviewed.


⬇️ Download the report ⬇️

The report provides a wealth of new data and includes a summary of key findings, as well as recommendations on how to address the main obstacles identified. The differences between the respondents in some areas of the survey did not indicate a large gap between genders.

Select findings

Of the women-led businesses surveyed, they face greater challenges in several areas:

  • Access to information. When looking for information on official border regulations, more women than men customs brokers reported that not all agencies keep information up to date, official government websites and enquiry points are not responsive, and there is a lack of comprehensive information across agencies. In terms of information received from the government on changes to border processes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, slightly more women than men traders reported there to be a lack of clarity with the information received.
  • Understanding information. Fewer women than men customs brokers reported that official regulations and processes are easy to understand.
  • National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC). Fewer women traders are aware of the existence of the NTFC. This is a new platform in the Philippines that was launched only a few weeks before the survey. 
  • Consultations. Among the traders that are regularly consulted, more women traders reported that their feedback is not taken into consideration compared to their men counterparts.

Primitiva Vanderpoorten, owner of resort hotel in Luna

Primitiva Vanderpoorten, owner of resort hotel in Luna © UN Women/Norman Gorecho

Select Recommendations

Findings demonstrate an opportunity for the Philippines to improve trade facilitation policies to better address women traders’ needs by:

  • Improving access to and understanding of official border regulations and procedures among traders and customs brokers through targeted information sessions, workshops, and training sessions, among other actions.
  • Promoting the role of the newly-created NTFC and gender sensitivity in its action plan.
  • Improving the process of regular government consultations with the private sector.

This analysis can help governments better understand trade barriers and design policy that maximizes the benefits of trade for women, so that they can participate more fully in the economy.

Support for the initiative was provided by the World Bank Group with funding from the Trade Facilitation Program in Middle Income Countries (TFMICs) -  funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Prosperity Fund. This initiative provides assistance to Middle Income Countries to reduce the time and cost to trade by helping them meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement