GMA expands micro-finance scheme

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday called for the expansion of the government’s micro-finance program to include women working in the public sector.

The President issued a directive to make women in government beneficiaries of the unique livelihood financing scheme in the course of her speech at the 2007 National Women’s Day celebration at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila.

Midway in her speech, the President asked the audience who among them have obtained loans under the micro-finance program being administered by the People’s Credit and Finance Corp.

She was taken aback when the audience responded with a loud “none of us.” She asked whether somebody in the audience was representing the PCFC and she got a similar response.

The President sounded upset, but when she learned that the audience was mostly made up of government employees, she expressed the government’s determination to raise their income and standards of living.

“I have already announced that upon the opening of Congress, we will seek the approval of a bill to raise your salaries. But on top of that we can also implement a project between now and March 8, 2008—the inclusion of government employees under the micro-finance program,” she told more than 5,000 woman-participants from all over the country.

The President instructed National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women chairman Myrna Yao and lawyer Noel Poso of the PCFC to coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry and other government agencies for the implementation of her new directive.

After the President’s speech, Yao explained to her that beneficiaries of the micro-finance scheme belonging to non-government organizations were not around because they were having their own celebration of Women’s Day.

Under present rules, those who are gainfully employed in either government or private firms are not entitled to borrow under the micro-finance program. The maximum allowable loan is P25,000.

Yao said the gaffe turned out to be a “blessing” because the President has hit upon the idea of extending micro-financing to government workers.

The micro-finance program has penetrated all provinces and cities and 97 percent of municipalities. A total of 1,410 institutions with about 2,200 branches have lent P52.69 billion from July 2004 to September 2006, under the program generating more than 800,000 jobs.

Joining the President at the Women’s Day celebration were Dr. Nicholas Alipui, representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund and chairman of the UN Gender Mainstreaming Committee, presidential consultant on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion III, Canadian Ambassador Peter Sutherland, Helen Gamboa, Gloria Angara, Audrey Zubiri and Team Unity senatorial bet Tessie Aquino Oreta