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It is perhaps a reflection of the times that, next week, I shall see you, dear readers, in another section of the Philippine Star. Our column will be moving from the Business section, its home for many years, to the main section of the paper, specifically in the Opinion section. I suppose it is just fitting because entrepreneurship now encompasses a broader range of issues as it touches so many aspects of our lives, especially here in the Philippines.
Just recently, when I met with Tourism Sec. Christina Frasco, we talked about the need to prepare our country’s infrastructure for the expected increase in visitor arrivals now that much of the world has lifted travel restrictions. We also talked about how tourism will benefit the thousands of MSMEs who depend on the industry for their livelihood.
The tourism industry suffered the most from the pandemic. With the shuttered borders, millions of people whose livelihoods depended on tourism lost their jobs. Many of our MSMEs are directly dependent on this sector, and many of them are in the provinces. The multiplier effect of a vibrant tourism industry cannot be underestimated.
Social media has opened up so many opportunities for entrepreneurs. It has leveled the playing field in terms of advertising. Where before, only the big companies were able to pay for endorsers and the airtime and space needed to spread the marketing message, now we’re seeing entrepreneurs on TikTok or Facebook Live promoting their brands and even do the actual selling.
Entrepreneurship has an impact on both the national and local economies. During my recent meeting with the NCR presidents and area heads of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one of the observations of the group was how developing local entrepreneurs can benefit the organization itself. This was a welcome twist to the original objective of the meeting, which was to invite more members of the organization to become mentors to MSMEs.
From their experience as businessmen, the PCCI officials observed that in order to develop local MSMES, there needs to be a strong and supportive LGU. The more pro-active cities in the country recognize the importance of growing local businesses, so they make it a point to prioritize ease of doing business by cutting down on red tape and even making small loans available to MSMEs.
Likewise, a thriving MSME community in an LGU redounds to more revenue and, as a result, better social services for all. An LGU must look at MSMEs as potential contributors to its taxable economy, and help the underground enterprises become legitimate by making it easy for them to do so.
A strong MSME sector is also reflective of a successful collaboration between the public and private sector, and between the big companies and the MSMEs. This was the idea behind our Kapatid Angat Lahat program, where the big companies come to the aid of the MSMEs by integrating them into their value chain, and where local governments provide the enabling environment for MSMEs to thrive. The most successful businesses in the Philippines know this.
SM, for example, is an incubator of retail ideas through the small startups it hosts as kiosks in its malls. A big majority of its suppliers are MSMEs. In the agriculture sector, we often cite the example of tobacco giant Universal Leaf, which works with micro farmers and the local government to uplift the tobacco industry in Ilocos.
We must encourage our micro farmers to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and put in place the enabling environment for them to do so. Through entrepreneurship, they can raise their productivity and be in control of their incomes. Imagine how much our country can profit from an entire industry of farmers who think and act like entrepreneurs.
Even our OFWs are a key element in MSME development. At our 3M on Wheels free mentoring events at the malls, we encounter so many OFW families looking for ways to invest their money. For them, establishing their own businesses is a way to ensure that their OFW relatives can one day come home for good, assured that all the years of hard work continues to bear fruit by way of their small businesses.
Indeed, entrepreneurship encompasses so many aspects of our society. I look forward to exploring these when I see you in the Opinion pages on Monday next week.