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Despite the pandemic, business owners’ resilience and government initiatives are helping to keep MSMEs afloat

Keeping companies viable in the face of the pandemic is a difficult task, but a mix of investor commitment and government involvement is required to keep operations afloat.

The primary factor that will ensure that micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) remain in operation, according to Jocelyn Ong-Perez, owner of Crafters Joy Cornhusk Products in this city and president of Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) for Region 1, is for people to buy their products.

Perez, on the other hand, acknowledged that it’s difficult to do today since so many people have lost their jobs.

โ€œIn my opinion, the government should come first because they have the resources. They have the funds to buy the presents they offer as well as the decorations for their offices,โ€ she told PNA on Wednesday.

According to Perez, the present government has made many reforms that benefit the MSME sector.

She claims that mentorship programs at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), among others, have been expanded.

She said that the DTI runs the Kapatid Mentor Me Project (KMMP), which is run in collaboration with the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE).

Representatives from big companies train and mentor MSMEs in many areas of company operations as part of this initiative.

It also offers an Adopt-an-SSF (Shared Service Facility) initiative that gives MSMEs in their community access to SSFS.

The Inclusive Business (IB) model, in which MSMEs are integrated into the value chain of big businesses, is another component of the KMMP.

These mentorship programs, according to Perez, are necessary for small company owners since “the bulk of businesspeople in the Philippines don’t actually know how to get into business.” It’s the mindset of a sari-sari store.โ€

โ€œPara kang nag-MBA in a very short period of time, which is exactly what we need,โ€ she added.

Another problem impeding the growth of MSMEs in the nation, she claims, is a lack of entrepreneurial mentality among Filipinos.

She claims that mentorship initiatives run by different government entities are aimed at changing this attitude.

โ€œThey’re spending a lot of money on seminars and webinars for us, and I think it’ll be beneficial,โ€ she added.

When the pandemic struck, she added, the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp) and DTI provided zero-percent loans with a two-year tenor to MSMEs.

She said SBCorp supplied Philexport with a PHP300 million credit facility, which in turn offered up to PHP200,000 in loans to good standing members with a six-month moratorium and a 5% processing charge.

โ€œThey are very forgiving, which is extremely beneficial to MSMEs. โ€œThe criteria are still strict, but they are preferable to asking for a bank loan,โ€ she said.

Because of the epidemic, Perez’s company, which mainly utilizes corn husks to make bags, baskets, and other handicrafts, has seen a drop in demand.

She also sells salted eggs, which are in more demand than handicrafts.

Basista’s cottage industry, renowned for bamboo and sea-grass-based handicrafts, deteriorated when China began mass-producing different goods, so she launched her home-based company in 2006.

Rainwater is used to irrigating the rice fields in the fourth-class municipality, which is made up mostly of farmers. Corn is another commodity that the community is well-known for.

According to Department of Agriculture statistics, Basista has approximately 6,500 hectares of land planted with maize, which produces about 65,000 husks.

She claims that the bulk of these husks are burnt, with just 5-10% being utilized as calf fodder.

Perez began her company with approximately 100 families and established an organization after training them, recognizing the enormous amount of trash and its effect on the environment, as well as the necessity for people to have money.

She claims that the number of organization members has shrunk to about 70 as some families have begun to depend only on government assistance.

Initially, she supplied the supplies to the families and only paid them based on commissioned works, but now the families are responsible for obtaining the materials themselves.

โ€œThey don’t want to harvest the resources before they are ready. They didn’t think that (the business) would go away. They now gather it and sell it amongst themselves,โ€ she said.

She stated that in addition to conducting training in Pangasinan, she has also held corn husk handcraft workshops throughout the nation.

She used to participate in trade shows both at home and abroad to boost sales, but due to the virus-related issue, these events have largely been postponed.

โ€œThat is why we are grateful to SM and the Department of Trade and Industry for allowing us to conduct physical trade fairs in the province,โ€ she added.

In its Pangasinan branches in Mangaldan, Urdaneta, and Dagupan, SM has permitted trade fairs.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has encouraged MSMEs to use electronic commerce (e-commerce) to market their goods, but Perez believes that having a physical presence makes a significant difference in terms of showcasing their goods than doing it online.

She has a Facebook profile for her company, but she claims that the majority of the individuals that contact her are people who have attended trade shows she has visited.

She, on the other hand, said that her Facebook page was crucial in bringing in a Vietnamese customer.

โ€œPeople are increasingly ordering via online facilities, and that’s what I want to tap into,โ€ she added, noting that DTI is working with online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee to help MSMEs establish their own shops.

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