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Our Go Negosyo family is still riding high from the success of our 2022 MSME Summit held last Aug. 26. The event was a who’s who in business and government, led by no less than President Marcos. He not only received a rousing welcome from our audience of MSMEs, mentors, business organizations, and captains of industry, but generously gave of his time to listen to the small group of big brothers who presented him with their insights on the agriculture sector.
The MSME Summit was the culmination of several meetings over the past few months where we explored how the public and private sector can work together. Public-private sector programs that support and build MSME capabilities, especially in the digital sphere, will have a big impact and can be acted upon in the short term so we can create meaningful employment for all Filipinos.
The President’s support of our MSME Summit gives us hope that this will jumpstart the value chain integration program for micro, small, and medium enterprises, where big business and MSMEs can work together for mutual growth.
It is becoming clear that we must work with the national and local government to make this work. The Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Agriculture will be key to this. Former Piddig mayor Eddie Guillen, who has several times shared his insights and experiences implementing a convergent, integrated and comprehensive agri-based economic program in his hometown of Piddig, Ilocos Norte, is particularly inspiring. During his term as mayor, the poverty incidence in Piddig was reduced from 33.7 percent to 5.6 percent within less than 20 years.
Now if we can only replicate his model and scale to the rest of the country. Doing so will need the help of our big brothers in the private sector, the commitment of local government, and the support of key government agencies.
During our meeting, the President was in agreement that the private sector and government must work together. Mom-and-pop approaches cannot be the norm. He also expressed approval of contract-growing and agreed with the insight of members of the private sector, who were present in the meeting, that pole-vaulting or trading outside of the grower-buyer contract – must be put to a stop.
Vertical integration, not only in food production, but also in livelihood programs of farmers, will be a benefit, as will investments in weather forecasting and soil evaluation. And the fewer agencies that our farmers and big brothers must hurdle, the better.
These insights will be valuable as we begin to implement Kapatid Angat Lahat, our program that is anchored on big business helping out the MSMEs by integrating them into their value chain, and in the process helping them scale up by providing them the opportunities, information, and linkages they need to survive and thrive. Within it is the inclusive economic growth we aim for in Go Negosyo, using the framework that we have been applying in our programs for MSMEs: access to money, markets, and mentoring.
If there needs to be more proof of what public-private sector cooperation can do, we only need to look at our country’s pandemic response.
Our week at Go Negosyo was rounded off very nicely with yesterday’s Go Negosyo COVID-19 townhall on COVID treatments. We have come a long way since those days when we were presented with grim projections of rising cases and vaccine hesitancy. Instead, in this townhall we focused on moving on from the pandemic. That was why a major portion of the townhall focused on antivirals – including the first locally manufactured oral antiviral in the Philippines, molnupiravir. We also had projections and insights from our friends at OCTA Research who had intriguing data on low case fatality rates among 18 to 49 year olds.
The data showed that people in this age range, who are assumed to be more mobile and interacting with a larger circle, are experiencing lower fatalities. Our friends at OCTA offered the insight that maybe, these are a highly vaccinated age group. An interesting interpretation indeed because our most aggressive campaigns for vaccination focused on the economic frontliners. This just goes to show that vaccination is really our way to move forward, and we must not let up. We intend to push harder for booster vaccinations with our “Isa Pa” campaign to persuade more people to get boostered.
I was asked why we continue to focus on health when, looking around, people seem eager to move on. While I believe we are ready to put the pandemic behind us, we are entering a new phase where we are still balancing health and the economy. This time, the economy must be given more careful consideration.
Interest rates and rising prices are having an impact on businesses and consumers, respectively. As I have emphasized before, we should ensure that we sustain the momentum by having enough antiviral medicines in stock, and moving forward, have the bivalent vaccines in our booster arsenal. We must anticipate every hurdle, and COVID must not be allowed to become one of those hurdles.
Our MSMEs already have enough on their hands. Like big business, they have obligations to pay so they can continue doing business and keep more of our countrymen employed.
The public-private partnership we are pushing for under the Kapatid Angat Lahat program will hopefully mirror the success of our public-private sector cooperation during the pandemic. The problems facing our economy are huge, and it is going to take more than one person and more than one sector to solve them.