MSMEs Voice Out Concerns, Call For Government Support In Dealing With Covid-19 Pandemic

18 May 2020‒ Social Impact Innovation Network Impact Hub Manila gathers entrepreneurs and community leaders from across different industries to flesh out recommendations in designing a ‘new normal’ that enables Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Comprising about 99.6% of all registered businesses in the Philippines, MSMEs bear the brunt of the slump in economy brought about by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Since the entire Luzon was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March 16, 2020, many businesses have been forced to redesign business models and even pivot to entirely new businesses, cut costs, revise work arrangements, lay off employees, and face mounting expenses despite lack of cash inflow as operations cease or become limited.

 

Ces Rondario of Impact Hub Manila (IHM), and former senator Bam Aquino who co-authored the Innovative Startup Act moderated an online webinar titled, “Voice Out: Concerns of the Community,” where representatives of different industries, and regions in the country discussed how their respective industries thrive through the pandemic. Recommendations from participating entrepreneurs are collated and will form part of a position paper for an MSME recovery policy recommendation for the Philippine COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).


The policy recommendation will identify the needs of MSMEs in the Philippines, and will include proposed measures that can help develop and sustain the MSME community post-pandemic and beyond.


“There are some industries which will really need to be in hiatus and it’s going to be very difficult. And we will need to find ways to support them… I think it’s clear here that this sector that also provides jobs and creates value also needs help,” said Bam Aquino.


Industries represented in the webinar were food and beverage (Rj Ledesma, Co-founder of Mercato Centrale Philippines); tourism (Jhaytee Wong, Member of the Philippine Travel Association Board of Trustees); events (Mys Sandico, CEO of PMCM Events Management); the creative sector (Paolo Mercado, President and Founder of Creative Economy Council of the Philippines); logistics (Jeff Sarmiento, Head of Business at Last Mile Inc.); and e-commerce (Mark Concio, CEO of Rosellee) among others.


Highlighting the role of ecosystem builders across the Philippines, the webinar was graced by startup community leaders from different parts of the country: Jason Dela Rosa (Bounce Back PH), Carlo Calimon (Startup Village), Gian Paulo dela Rama (Aiah) and Charles Barrete (Philippine Fab Lab Network) shared about the situation here in Luzon. Bryan Yap of (Republiq Group of Companies based in Cebu), Hera Barrameda (of Layla.ph based in Iloilo), and Atty. Jocelle Dela Rosa (based in Bacolod) provided perspectives from Visayas, and Michael Lim (President of the National ICT Council of the Philippines) who shared about the current realities in Zamboanga and represented Mindanao.


The Challenge


A study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies revealed that the country may suffer an economic loss of about P276.3 billion up to about P2.5 trillion in 2020. The slowdown in economic activities could also reduce employment of up to 1.8 million according to the National Economic Development Authority.


While community quarantine measures led to a boom in logistics and e-commerce, other economic sectors are badly affected by the pandemic. Tourism alone could lose up to P156.9 billion or  an equivalent of up to 0.8% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Meanwhile, the creative industry‒ which is estimated to contribute up to P1.3 trillion in the economy, according to Paolo Mercado, President & Founder of the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines‒ faces devastating loss as public performances have been canceled, and theaters and public galleries have been forced to close. Even online creative workers saw up to 95% drop in their monthly income. Like other industries, the events industry‒ which involves businesses such as suppliers of audio and lighting equipment, photography and videography services, hosts, performers, ushers, booths, and other logistics suppliers‒ is dealing with events cancellations and mounting liabilities such as rentals, utility bills, payroll, business loans, and other employee benefits.


Entrepreneurs from different industries who joined the panel were in agreement that digital transformation may be the way to go for business sustainability. But extensive reskilling and retooling are needed to prepare all workers in the needed shift for the new normal. And as part of a  massive ecosystem with many different stakeholders, the government’s role in holding up the economy cannot be over emphasized. Wolgang Heinze of Friedrich Naumann Foundation who was also in the webinar articulated it well when he said, “there needs to be transparency and consistency in the guidelines from the government.”


IHM’s founder Ces Rondario emphasized, “when systems fail and when the surroundings that we were used to fail, it’s when entrepreneurship rises.” In the middle of the pandemic and cash flow issues, innovators and entrepreneurs across the world keep hustling and finding ways to serve the public while keeping their businesses afloat. But the sector also calls for aid and support in these trying times.


Impact Hub Manila, together with former Senator Bam Aquino, is taking the lead on developing the position paper on behalf of the MSMEs. This includes a set of policy recommendations for the government to consider in helping MSMEs restart and strengthen their businesses amid the pandemic and beyond.


The Resiliency Project

 

“Voice Out: Concerns of the Community,” is part of Impact Hub Manila’s Resiliency Project, a series of webinars on topics that can assist entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve business sustainability amid unpredictable and turbulent environments. 

This session is co-presented by Bounce Back Philippines, and in partnership with Startup Village, Aiah, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Fab Labs, Republiq Group of Companies, Last Mile Inc., PMCM Events, Resellee, PTAA, and NICP.


For updates on upcoming session, follow Impact Hub Manila online: 

facebook.com/impacthubmnl

www.impacthub.ph



ABOUT IMPACT HUB MANILA

 

IHM is an impact incubation hub focused on purpose-driven entrepreneurs whose venture ideas have the potential to impact the lives of Filipinos at large scale. It is part of the largest incubation network in the world, Impact Hub, with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The United Nations Office in Geneva recognizes Impact Hub as a driver of community engagement for the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Impact Hub is present in over 100 locations, and more than 55 countries.

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