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Last week, I was able to share with our program implementers, during the third evaluation, assessment and planning of the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program, how our mentorship programs have seen a growing interest, especially from international players, through the effective partnership between the Department of Trade and Industry and Go Negosyo.
Since 2005, Go Negosyo has been advocating a shift in the Filipino mindset and attitude as a means to achieve prosperity. Addressing poverty is the objective of our programs and is anchored on three principles – Market, mentorship, and money. We have come a really long way. The support of our partners from both the private and public sectors has been very instrumental.
During my speech, I congratulated all the regional and provincial directors of DTI through the leadership of Sec. Mon Lopez, DTI director Jerry Clavesillas, Usec. Blesila Lantayona, as well as our Go Negosyo mentors for their hard work and persistence in advancing our advocacy of uplifting MSMEs in the country.
It was through the efforts of retired DTI undersecretary Merly Cruz, who is now Go Negosyo’s senior adviser for MSME development that we were able to get the support and funding from the Japan ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) to implement the ASEAN Mentors for Entrepreneurship Network (AMEN) this year. The program is currently running in three countries, namely the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. During the ASEAN leaders’ event last month, the same program was recognized and adopted by Cambodia and Brunei, among others, as a model platform to support their MSMEs.
Now a challenging area that we need to focus on is the development of our mentors. We have to make sure that all mentors are well-equipped to handle the needs of our MSMEs.
Early this year, I shared with President Duterte the key areas I believe the Philippines should focus on to make the greatest impact in the lives of our micro and small entrepreneurs. These are the areas of agriculture, tourism, and digitalization. To encourage inclusive growth, we must create an enabling environment for our entrepreneurs by widening their access to market, money, and mentorship within these sectors.
Agriculture, the most challenging sector, is where we will find the bulk of our small entrepreneurs. Enhancing the capacity and competitiveness of our farmers is key to helping small players operate from survival to sustainability mode.
That is why the program that we have right now, aside from ensuring the quality of our agri-mentors, is making markets more accessible to farmers. We are working with Shopee to introduce the platform called MAGRI. This is an online marketplace for farmers where they can directly communicate with more potential buyers. It will start with rice, and if successful, we can make the platform accessible to other sectors.
Tourism is another sector that I think our country has a great advantage in – and potential – to succeed. We receive as much as seven million tourists each year. Our country is also home to countless tourist attractions and a relatively young population. With the help of our government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Tourism (DOT), we can maximize the potential of this sector by investing in services, as well as infrastructure, to create more jobs for Filipinos.
Digitalization is the third area, and I think the most important and urgent one that the country really needs to develop. I am glad DTI, the Department of Science and Technology, and even the private sector are really pushing hard to broaden the people’s access to various technological platforms that have been transforming lives across the world. What we need to do is encourage the younger generation to look at business models that are different, and have them participate in these emerging spaces within the digitalization sphere.
Digitalization creates the greatest opportunities for our MSMEs. Our Mentor ME app online is an initiative that we have started, also with the help of DTI. We have also launched events, such as the very successful SIGN UP Summit, in partnership with our digital platform alliance to introduce digitalization to more MSMEs.
Advocating for inclusive growth and change is what I have been doing the past 14 years, and it has been a long and challenging, yet satisfying journey. We have mentored more than 15,000 Filipino MSMEs, including students, barangay officials, and housewives, etc., through our various mentorship programs.
Our mentorship projects also give a chance for big corporations to go back and reassess their own organizations. Whenever I mentor somebody, it reminds me of my past. The last mentee I met, Sarah Pasabillo, is one such example. I learned that she had been trying to get in touch with me many times before we finally met during one of our recent Mentor ME On Wheels roll-out.
She owns a small tailoring business which she wanted to scale up. I personally introduced her to Tatah Dela Caldaza, also a former mentee who now owns a successful fashion and accessories line. Being a mentor is a really fulfilling and satisfying role. Even now our advisers in Go Negosyo do it out of sheer passion. The mentorship program has allowed us to discover the diverse entrepreneurial stories occurring in the grassroots, especially the challenges encountered by our entrepreneurs.
Nothing is really easy, especially helping out our MSMEs. So far, as I look back, it has been a journey. There were times when it was hard to get help and support from the administration. But somebody did help us. We at Go Negosyo are fortunate to have such partners who have been with us since we started this journey.
I have spent one and a half of my time and resources, advocating this movement because, in the end, it is fulfilling to see others succeed. I am glad DTI has joined us in solving the biggest problem of our country, which is poverty. So, I would like to thank all our partners in the department for the support as they are key to the success of every entrepreneur in the Philippines.