A creative economy in the Philippines

Some say that where “oil was the primary fuel of the 20th-century economy,” creativity is what drives economic growth and development in the 21st. A 2010 UN report noted that between 2000 and 2010, so-called creative industries grew at an annual pace that was more than twice of services, and more than four times of manufacturing in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and developing countries.

In 2015 creative industries represented 3 percent or around $2.2 trillion of the world’s GDP and employed 30 million people worldwide per United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) estimates. Experts claim that this segment of the world economy will only keep on growing, as it is believed to be immune to developments in automation and artificial intelligence, which have put the manufacturing sector on the edge.

These industries—which the Unesco defines as sectors which produces, reproduces, promotes and distributes goods, services and activities of creative, artistic or heritage-related nature—have, in fact, become the bread and butter of many cities.

San Sebastian City in Spain moved away from its origins as a fishing village, and through the years became a capital in the culinary world. The city holds the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter in the world. Highly regarded events, such as the San Sebastian International Film Festival, are also being held in this tiny city.

Buenos Aires in Argentina has also benefited from a creative economy boom. A 2016 World Economic Forum report said that 9.3 percent of the city’s GDP and 9.1 percent of its work force can be attributed to its creative industries.

Last year the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reported that in the Philippines, the industry contributed over P600 billion and employed 14.4 percent of the labor force.

Thankfully, the creative economy’s appeal and benefits haven’t been lost in our country. The DTI, through the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions and the Design Center of the Philippines, spearheaded numerous activities, such as the Create Philippines and the Asean Creative Cities Forum and Exhibition, to give support and avenue for individuals, groups and businesses to penetrate this lucrative market.

However, this industry still gets “overlooked” sometimes, despite its already huge impact. The government should take advantage not only of our young population but also of their propensity for creativity. Hence, we should jump-start policies and programs that incentivize the industry’s growth and development.

The country could employ the strategy of Buenos Aires, wherein the city established the Creative Districts Initiative in 2008, which provided tax incentives to creative businesses.

There is also room for our government to invest more in training and promotions. In New York City the city government has been working with industry leaders to train both aspirants and novices on film, television and media production. The South Korean government—cognizant of the popularity of K-pop worldwide—established over 25 Korean cultural centers to further support the rising trend.

Some thought should also be paid on giving incentives to artists, animators, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, writers and other creative professionals who win international competitions for their creative works.  An incentives scheme could be formulated, similar to what’s in place right now for our national athletes—some of whom (like Hidilyn Diaz) will be receiving cash gifts for garnering medals in the recent 2018 Asian Games.

John Newbigin, former Special Advisor to the UK Minister for Culture, once said that in a time of rapid globalization, many around the world recognize that “the combination of culture and commerce that the creative industries represent is a powerful way…of helping [a country or city] stand out from its competitors.” I’m hopeful that this is a bandwagon the Philippines jumps right into soon.


Angara was elected in 2013, and now chairs the Senate committees on local government, and ways and means.

E-mail: sensonnyangara@yahoo.com| Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @sonnyangara



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