Immediately after independence, the government concentrated its efforts on reconstructing and rehabilitating the war-damaged economy. In 1949 import and foreign exchange controls were imposed to alleviate a balance of payments problem. Imports fell dramatically, providing a stimulus for the development of light industry oriented toward the domestic market. Manufacturing growth was rapid, averaging 9.9 percent per year during the 1950s. Initially, textiles, food manufactures, tobacco, plastics, and light fabrication of metals dominated. There also was some assembly of automobiles and trucks and construction of truck and bus bodies. By the early 1960s, however, manufacturing growth declined to slightly less than the growth of GNP. The share of the labor force in manufacturing in 1988 was 10.4 percent, less than it was in 1956, although the share had grown to 12 percent in 1990.
By the late 1980s, and in part the consequence of local content laws that were intended to enhance linkage among various manufacturing industries and increase self-sufficiency, the industrial structure had become more complex, with intermediate and capital goods industries relatively large for a country at the Philippines' stage of development. By the mid-1980s, an ambitious US$6 billion industrial development program originally undertaken by the Marcos regime in 1979 had resulted in operational copper smelter-refinery, cocochemical manufacturing, and phosphatic fertilizer projects. A cement-industry rehabilitation and expansion program and an integrated iron and steel mill project were still underway. A petrochemical complex appeared about to be undertaken in 1990, but was bogged down in a dispute over location and financing.
Manufacturing output fell in the political and economic crisis of 1983, and industry in 1985 was working at as low as 40 percent of capacity. By the middle of 1988, after economic pump priming by the Aquino regime, industries were again working at full capacity. In 1990 the Board of Investments approved investment projects valued at US$3.75 billion, including US$1.48 billion targeted to the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing production is geographically concentrated. In 1990, 50 percent of industrial output came from Metro Manila and another 20 percent from the adjoining regions of Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon. Prior to 1986, government efforts to distribute industry more evenly were largely ineffective. In the post-Marcos economic recovery, however, investment grew in small and medium-sized firms producing handicrafts, furniture, electronics, garments, footwear, and canned goods in areas outside of Metro Manila, particularly in Cebu City and Davao City.
In 1990 the industrial sector was inefficient and oligopolistic. Although small- and medium-sized firms accounted for 80 percent of manufacturing employment, they accounted for only 25 percent of the value added in manufacturing. Most industrial output was concentrated in a few, large establishments. For example, a six-month Senate inquiry determined in 1990 that eight of the country's seventeen cementmanufacturing companies were under control of a single firm.