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I had a very engaging interview with ANC’s Karen Davila, and I believe it encapsulates everything we have been working on lately, especially now that we have a new administration. It was quite interesting, and I am sharing portions of it here. I hope you find it enlightening as well.
Q: What did you discuss in your meeting with the President?
It was a very good meeting and I was quite impressed with him. It was the first time we met in person, but it felt like we already knew each other. It was a very warm discussion about health, high prices, and the MSMEs.
On the health front, I updated him on my views. I told him we are moving to an endemic phase, and that even though infection levels are rising, we should not be alarmed because healthcare utilization is quite low.
I told him that the greatest concern we have right now is the high as an effect of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The more prolonged this conflict becomes, the worse the whole situation will be for the consumers.
Q: How would you want the policy on booster shots to change?
Right now the government guarantees anybody who gets sick from the vaccines. That should stop. The pharma companies should file for a Certificate of Public Registration. The moment they file for a CPR and the Food and Drug Administration grants it, then they can sell the vaccines through the drug stores. But what about the poor who cannot afford it? That’s where the government can come to support, and I explained it to President Marcos and he agrees with it.
I think we should transition out. The government cannot be burdened with all these financial issues of paying for vaccines, etc. The problem is we buy vaccines and they expire. At least if they pay for it, they will take it.
Q: Did you give the President a wish list to improve the MSMEs?
I mentioned to him that in the pandemic many of our MSMEs were really hit hard, some restructured their loans, and many of them closed shop. The thrust now really is to help finance our MSMEs and ensure they have access to capital so that they can restart and sustain their businesses.
I advised President Marcos about the work we’re doing with the DTI, and with the DA especially, because with the trouble overseas, food security is now very important. Our farmers must be well equipped with funding because rice and corn are critical raw materials for us now that wheat prices have gone through the roof. Hopefully, with better productivity at our farms – and this is where the thrust of our micro farmers should be: to enhance yield – we will be able to manage the high prices.
Q: Was the President able to share his plans?
The President remains committed to the economy. He appointed Fred Pascual, who is a very capable person, as DTI Secretary.
President Marcos wants to see more jobs created. But now we are confronted with a super typhoon of high prices. There are a lot of headwinds, but I think with the private sector solidly behind this administration, the chances of success are much higher.
Q: Were there talks of you continuing your role as presidential adviser?
The discussions focused on the health issue. I asked him about removing the State of Public Health Emergency eventually, and how we should transition out of it and remove the alert levels as well.
The alert levels, I felt that we should call it when it’s needed. He was very open to all of these ideas and so I think we are on the right track.
Q: How do you see the role of Go Negosyo in the incoming administration?
For the past 16 years I have done the work. We started with GMA when I became her adviser, and even under PNoy we continued, and again under the Duterte administration. It will be the same under the Marcos administration. President Marcos is solidly behind us. He believes that Go Negosyo has done a great job.
His base of support is 31 million. That’s a phenomenal number and many of those voters are from MSMEs. I think we have a greater chance at creating greater prosperity for all and not just for a few. Large corporations are joining in this campaign to help our MSMEs elevate themselves and one day become larger enterprises, and that’s our goal: we want a more inclusive economy.
Q: What would you consider to be the greatest achievement of the Duterte administration when it comes to MSMES?
The public-private partnership during the whole health crisis; it really worked and we brought down alert levels to almost zero. The Duterte administration has lent a lot of money to our MSMEs through SB Corp, DTI, Landbank and all the different government agencies. It is exactly what they needed.
The programs we have will continue. We are funded by the private sector and we don’t get money from the government. The public-private sector support is helping our small entrepreneurs, who make up 99 percent of the business community and employ 62 percent of the labor force. We want job generation to continue to grow so we have to make our MSMEs grow so they can employ more people.
Q: What would you continue as unfinished business for the incoming administration to help support MSMEs?
The basic formula we have is basically what we call the three M’s – money, market, and mentorship. We have a lot of mentors right now, and on the money side, the government has accelerated that. On the market side, the government has provided a platform, and through the help of the digital community, like GCash and Maya, they provided digital payments; that, to me, was the biggest game changer.
We need less bureaucracy. The DTI presented a system where a microentrepreneur can just register their business online in a very simple way. This is ease of doing business and it is very important.
Q: With agriculture as a major focus of the Marcos administration, would Go Negosyo also focus more on agriculture in the new administration?
Irrigation is very important and I think that program is being completed now. We were really working with the DA with our KAMMP to train a lot of agri entrepreneurs. There are a lot of serious mentors like Henry Lim Bon Liong, who is pushing for hybrid rice.
Raising the productivity of our rice farmers is key to this. Food security is very important; we have to be self-sufficient, with rice and corn, considering that flour and bread prices are going up.
I think the farmers are critical because many of our poor entrepreneurs belong to the agri sector. Access to market is critical, and that is why the former administration has built the infrastructure; farm to market roads have been done and continue to be the focus, connectivity and irrigation are key.
Q: You have worked with several presidents. Would you say that you would like Go Negosyo to be known as immune to politics?
Definitely. I’ve been doing the work at Go Negosyo for 16 years and I’ve never used my position for politics. I remain committed to helping our poor entrepreneurs and alleviate poverty in this country. And I believe the private sector and the large corporations believe it is our time to help elevate the lives of our MSMEs
I think President Marcos will be a great president, but that will depend on how we as Filipinos support him. The private sector has to be behind him solidly because we cannot afford to fail.