The Filipino Microentrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is a big word for many Filipinos. A more commonly used word is “business” or as most Filipinos would say it “may sariling negosyo.” Filipinos would associate being an entrepreneur with freedom. This freedom comes with many risks though. Many small entrepreneurs face the challenges of a highly competitive market with lack of capital, credit and other resources, as well as lack of support and business know how. Does this stop many small businessmen from going about their trade? Hardly… the people that are referred to as “small businessmen” are your neighborhood sari-sari store owners, jeepney and tricycle drivers, market vendors, banana cue and squid ball stall owners.

How about those who manage their own piggeries and chicken farms in their backyards? They are small business owners too. Then you have those who run other forms of small businesses from their own backyards – my own mother is a classic example of this. She was never just a plain housewife. For much of our childhood, she contributed to the family’s income by baking and selling goodies on consignment to the larger bakeshops in the metropolis. These are the faces of the Entre Pinoy, which majority of our countrymen are. The businesses they run are classified as microenterprises hence they are called micro-entrepreneurs.

For these people, having small businesses is a matter of survival. They rely on these means of income to put food on their table and provide for their other necessities. A study conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry showed that 99.7% of businesses in the country are micro, small and medium enterprises. These people provide many services and benefits that the rest of their countrymen take for granted. Jeepney and tricycle drivers make transportation more affordable to those without cars, while sari-sari store owners make basic goods more accessible and affordable in many neighborhoods. Another major benefit that micro-entrepreneurs provide is employment to those who would otherwise not be employed in larger companies because of their lack of qualifications.

Despite the support they provide this country’s economy, it is a sad fact that many of our country’s micro-entrepreneurs lack resources and support, especially from the government. Many of them fall prey to usurers for lack of capital. It’s not that legislation is lacking to help support these micro-entrepreneurs. Republic Act 9501 was signed into law on May 23, 2008 to promote entrepreneurship by strengthening development and assistance programs to micro, small and medium scale enterprises. However, as most laws passed in the country, its intended benefits will not reach our enterprising countrymen, unless such development and assistance programs get implemented in many parts of the country.

It was recently that I came to learn about a partylist known as Ang Kasangga, whose advocacy is to support micro-entrepreneurs across the country through the development, planning and implementation of programs to support micro-entrepreneurship. The members of this partylist have implemented micro-lending programs with no interest, for marginalized entrepreneurs at the barangay level in many parts of the country. The same facility was extended to hard pressed victims of calamities. The support they were able to provide micro-entrepreneurs went beyond extending credit. They were able to provide business trainings, and identify other forms of logistical support so that these micro-entrepreneurs can grow their businesses.

Testaments to the success of their programs include the VIBES Massage Service outlets we see in the malls. VIBES stands for Visually Impaired Brotherhood for Excellent Services. The success of the VIBES outlet has provided their members with decent means to earn income despite their visual impairment. The members of the Rizal Park Vendors Association also benefitted from Ang Kasangga’s micro-lending programs. From ambulant vendors or those without permanent stalls to sell their wares, they now manage their own stalls and assist in the maintenance of the park.

The Ang Kasangga Partylist is the brainchild of entrepreneur Teodorico Haresco Jr. Ted Haresco is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country and is also chairman of the Ang Kasangga partylist. It was through his leadership that Ang Kasangga was able to develop and implement its projects to help micro-entrepreneurs become more self sufficient. This was all part of Ted Haresco’s efforts to give back to society.

Other groups that Ang Kasangga was able to help include Murphy Market Vendors and Retailers Association, Senior Citizens Development Cooperative of Legaspi City, Silang Transport Services Development Cooperative, Guimaras Food Services and Caterers Association. Largely through the generosity of Ted Haresco, Ang Kasangga is also able to offer scholarships for 46 children of slain journalists.

It is his hope and also the other members of Ang Kasangga that the partylist will be able to further implement its goals and projects after the elections. In the pipeline is a fiscal program for savings of its members with the end of putting up the Ang Kasangga Savings Bank, and stabilize its micro-lending program for the marginalized sectors of our economy. While there are many partylists out there that have worthy advocacies, perhaps it’s time that we consider voting for a partylist that has proven the effectiveness of its programs and can deliver the benefits promised.