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Presidential aspirant and standard bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s turn as featured candidate on Go Negosyo’s “Kandidatalks” series reached more than one million people and attracted 379,000 total views when it streamed live over Go Negosyo’s Facebook page last December 1.
During the show, Marcos shared his plans should he become the next President of the Philippines. Among these are rationalizing taxes and allocating portions of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to micro, small, medium enterprises (MSMEs), strengthening the country’s agriculture and transport sector, and continuing President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build Build Build“ program.
Marcos reiterated the importance of MSMEs in helping the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. “People need jobs, and the biggest bang for our buck are the MSMEs. The effect of any effort we have to help MSMEs will be felt immediately,” he said, adding that these will be felt even by the big corporations.
Marcos said it has been a challenging year for MSMEs. “Most people are willing to become entrepreneurs, but we find MSMEs in a difficult situation,” he said, saying that most have used up their savings, borrowed capital, and are now stuck with debt. “If we have ayuda for individuals, we should have ayuda for MSMEs.”
LGUs, he said, can set aside funds to help MSMEs while at the same time mentoring them by assessing the soundness of their business plans. Marcos thinks a portion of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) can be allotted to help MSMEs, thanks to the Mandanas ruling which substantially increased the IRA of all LGUs.
He believes organizations like Go Negosyo can help assess the business plans of MSMEs. “We need to teach them all the things needed to run a self-owned business,” he said. “They have the capacity from the added IRA, now the capability and training has to go into that.” Marcos added that efforts in developing small businesses should start in areas where COVID cases are low and vaccination rates are high.
Asked by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion on which of his father’s legacy he would wish to continue, Marcos replied that it would not be something that has to do with the economy.
”The most important thing is a sense of nationhood that we felt when he was President,” he said, adding that during the late President’s term, Filipinos spoke less of regionality, but that rather, cultural awareness and a shared consciousness became the main identifier of being Filipino.
During the forum, a leading businessman asked Marcos about his plans for agricultural productivity.
“One of the first things we felt during COVID was the food supply problem,” said Marcos. “It showed the weaknesses in our agricultural system.”
Recalling his father’s “Masagana 99” program, he said that the country’s approach should go beyond planting rice, but extend to R&D, the search for resilient varieties, support for farmers in securing loans and accessing agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
He emphasized the need for mechanization to lower production costs, and pointed out the need for small farms to achieve scale by putting up more cooperatives. Government, he said, must provide assistance in processing and bringing products to market.
“This was what NFA used to do: stabilize market prices of commodities and keep prices at a level where farmers can still earn.” He added that the country must have a strategic supply of rice, and not merely be an importer of the commodity. He said government initiatives such as the Food Terminal Inc. and the Kadiwa stores demonstrated a successful, vertically integrated solution to agricultural productivity.
He also emphasized the importance of infrastructure in long-term solutions for the country. None of the long-term agricultural solutions would succeed, he said, without dams, which, with climate change, now serve the dual purpose of irrigation and flood control.
He said other aspects of agriculture must be developed, including high value crops, livestock and fishery. “An accompanying program to Masagana 99 was the provision of bancas to fishermen,” he said. “We need to update that and have bigger and better equipment for our fishermen so they can make a better living,” he said. “Agriculture is a critical element of the socioeconomic structure; it is the foundation. We cannot build industrialization unless we have a strong agricultural foundation.”
As to MSMEs affected by the pandemic, Marcos said that the short-term solution is to give spending power to the people. The medium to long-term solution, meanwhile, involves developing the country’s transport system, not just for people but also for goods.
He said that the pandemic exposed the weaknesses of the country’s supply line, as demonstrated by the need for cold storage for vaccines and the challenges in getting goods across during the lockdowns. The country’s ability to build a good transport system will be crucial if it is to take advantage of the rise in demand next year as economies start to recover.
Marcos also decried the lack of capital-intensive investments in the country, and attributed it to the high cost of electricity. This, he said, creates the case for more renewable energy, an area he believes the Philippines is resource-rich but is lagging behind. “We don’t want solely hot money,” he said.
Marcos said he wants to continue the Duterte government’s “Build Build Build” program, adding that the country’s infrastructure development program must now include digital and power infrastructure. He said online activity increased during the pandemic, and gave small entrepreneurs equal footing with big brands as consumers started buying from independent suppliers. He said this only emphasized the need for the country’s digital infrastructure to be strengthened.
Small entrepreneurs who joined Go Negosyo’s mentoring program asked questions of the former senator, specifically how he can help those who have been affected by the pandemic.
Marcos said that in order to help MSMEs who are now in debt, the government must consider granting tax amnesties, especially to those affected by the pandemic. He believes that the structure of taxation for small businesses must be changed to encourage MSMEs to comply with tax requirements and consequently build their credit rating. Furthermore, to help MSMEs succeed, he said, they should have lower taxes and their goods must be non-VATable, as in the case of cooperatives earning Php10 million or less.
Entrepreneurship, be said, goes beyond making money, but is also about social transformation, as exemplified by the Go Negosyo mentees who shared their stories with him during the show. “Lumalakas ang pagasa because Go Negosyo showed it can be done, and continued to do it even during the crisis,” he said. “Hopefully the entrepreneurship programs will be expanded, and will inspire many others to become entrepreneurs.”
The “Kandidatalks” series aims to ask the candidates for the country’s top national posts about their plans for the country’s MSMEs. It is hosted by Betong Sumaya and Love Añover, along with Go Negosyo Senior Adviser Josephine Romero.
Set to appear next on “Kandidatalks” are Sen. Manny Pacquiao (Dec. 6), Sen. Ping Lacson (Dec. 20) and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso are also set to appear on Kandidatalks, as are vice presidential candidates former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza on Dec. 3, Sen Vicente Sotto (Dec. 8), Sen. Francis Pangilinan (Dec. 10) and Walden Bello (Dec. 13). Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte Carpio and Dr. Willie Ong are also
“Kandidatalks” coincides with Go Negosyo’s 16th anniversary. To watch “Kandidatalks”, simply like the Go Negosyo page on Facebook, and watch its Facebook Live streaming of “Kandidatalks” every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. Updates on schedules can be viewed on the Go Negosyo Facebook page.