Closing remarks at the launch of the Rebuilding Better: Fostering Business Resilience Post-COVID-19 in the Philippines

By Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the launch of the Rebuilding Better: Fostering Business Resilience Post-COVID-19 in the Philippines, 27 May 2021, Manila, Philippines via Zoom

  • Mr Khalid Hassan, Director of the International Labour Organization – Manila;
  • Mr Carlos Mendoza, Senior Country Officer, JP Morgan;
  • Coordinators and Technical Project Officers of the ILO;
  • Panelists and Resource Persons from government agencies and business organizations;
  • Representatives of women-owned enterprises;
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

DTI’s strategic framework for providing programs and services is guided by the PH MSME development plan. Even before the pandemic, our goal has always been to uplift MSMEs to become more globally-competitive, regionally integrated, resilient, sustainable and innovative key drivers of inclusive economic growth.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic had an unsettling impact to our MSMEs. What we have heard from the entrepreneur- presenters earlier aptly describe the experience of many of the businesses trying to survive one of the greatest challenges in our modern history. When the pandemic hit us some 14 months ago, businesses, except those categorized as absolutely essential practically stopped for more than two months, and then, afterwards, tightly regulated for reasons of health and public safety.

Women-owned and women-led enterprises bear the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic in the form of business closures and job losses; and increasing burden of unpaid care work. WMEs experienced reduced sales due to difficulty in sourcing of raw materials, logistics and delivery disruptions, and challenges in accessing sustainable markets.

Upholding the whole-of-government approach to resolving these challenges, DTI’s strategies which are aligned to the Philippine Development Plan, specifically, Chapter 9 — seek to expand economic opportunities and build back better MSMEs in the new normal.

DTI’s interventions for MSMEs and women entrepreneurs in the new normal is also aligned with REBUILD PH, which is the economic stimulus to keep jobs and income to revitalize the economy. Its three core elements mainly focus on leveraging the digital economy, as livelihood activities are shifting online. REBUILD’s strategies:
  • To save jobs and sustain income is via continuous skills development and capacity building of MSMEs to adapt to the new normal
  • To strengthen demand by increasing accessibility to markets through online platforms, contactless payments, modernized logistics and delivery processes; and the need to maximize benefits from Free Trade Agreements; and
  • To entice companies to produce more, economic agencies are called to digitalize logistics and delivery systems, intensify innovation and research and development and to continuously address the supply chain gaps.
With these as guide — DTI developed its Gender and Development Agenda in response to the specific needs of women entrepreneurs and consumers in the new normal.

Our GAD Agenda is strategic plan and framework to identify programs, activities, and projects to be undertaken to achieve the GAD goals and outcomes based on our mandates of MSME development, trade and investment, and consumer protection. We undertake the agenda in the context of the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and opportunities provided by digitalization and innovation.

We conducted series of FGDs from Dec 2020 to the 1st Q of 2021, to which some of you were participants — to identify common issues and challenges in the each of the three areas mentioned earlier. And We base our specific interventions to the sector form these.

To build back enterprises DTI aims to harness opportunities of the digital economy. In order to attain PDP’s goal of expanding access to production networks and global markets, we implement the E-Commerce Program, which is our key priority agenda.

Related to this, we envision that by 2022, 100,000 MSMEs are already engaged in e-commerce activities, with 40 to 50 per cent of total internet users in the country engaged in e-commerce.

We also seek to expand protection of consumers in online-based transactions through Data Privacy Act, National Cybersecurity Plan and the passing of the Internet Transaction Act., among others.

Currently, DTI provide assistance and services for COVID 19-affected women entrepreneurs, especially in the era of digital economy. Allow me to mention some of them:

The Kapatid Mentor Me (KMME) Online Program equips entrepreneurs with the right mindset and business knowhow through a coaching and mentoring approach where large corporations teach MSEs on different aspects of business operations. Last year, 69 per cent or 1,677 out of 2,428 women benefited from the KMME program.

Our 1,176 Negosyo Centers provide entrepreneurs access to business information and support services, training, and credit facilities at the LGU level. Most services were also made available online. Last year, 63 per cent or about 327,790 of the total 518,651 who availed services from the NC program are women.

To ease women entrepreneur’s access to money, the Pondo para sa Pagbabago at Pag-Asenso or the P3 Program, in cooperation with the Small Business Corporation, connects enterprises to micro finance institutions (MFIs) to provide financing for Business Start-Up or expansion. Last year over 9,782 of 15,521 beneficiaries of small business finance services are women.

The Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises Program (CARES) program has approved over 21,299 loan applications, with a total of Php 1.2 billion loans released, reaching over 1,600 municipalities nationwide.

The E-PESO project, through USAID realizes our vision for a digital economy through an efficient, transparent, and inclusive e-finance systems. Filipina entrepreneurs are equipped with the tools and skills to become online sellers through the project’s e-payment platform. The number of female users of said platform increased from 37 per cent in 2019 to 43 per cent in 2020.

The One Town, One Product or OTOP program provides product design, development and packaging assistance and promotes MSMEs’ products in physical and online channels and marketing platforms. Last year, 67 per cent of those who availed of OTOP’s services are women.

The SheTrades initiative, seeks to connect 3 million women entrepreneurs to the global market, and establish business networks to help them prosper in the international scene. DTI supports its goal of export competitiveness, creating market linkages and enhancing the capacity of business service organizations to help our WMEs.

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative Program (W-GDP) is an Integrated Training Digital Marketing Training program led by USAID, in collaboration with DTI, NATCCO, Lazada, Shopee, and Facebook Philippines aims to capacitate women entrepreneurs and mentors in digital marketing, digital payments, and establishing effective online storefronts on popular e-commerce sites.

Indeed, bringing back the business momentum lost in the pandemic requires the whole of community approach. We look forward to partnering with ILO, JPM Chase Foundation, the business groups and all of you in rebuilding better our economy and nation.

In closing, let me share with you the response of a 49-year woman entrepreneur, a widow with 6 children, who is a subject of our documentation on women in business. When asked what is the biggest challenge of a women entrepreneur, she said “The biggest challenge is being a woman . . . when you are a woman, parang wala kang karapatang sumuko sa buhay.”

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and have a good day!