Group banks on social enterprise for peace to sprout in Lanao del Norte


by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
www.ofwjournalism.net

MANILA–IT would take nearly a thousand kilometers, millions of pesos, and a year for peace to be sown in Lanao del Norte.

That is the hope of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, a socio-civic group banking on a project to spur “social enterprises” in Kolambogan municipality.

Social enterprise is an old concept yet to seep into the fabric of violence-riddled Philippine society.

According to the West Oxfordshire District Council of England, a social enterprise is a “local community acting together to provide services needed by the local population, particularly where the service cannot be provided through the market economy”.

Simply put, social enterprises are geared more to plow profits back to the community through a business run nearly by the community.

That is what Unlad Kabayan’s project is aiming for in the municipality of Kolambogan in Lanao del Norte, some 790 kilometers south of the Philippines’s capital.

The project called “New Lives for Old: Peace, Growth, and Good Governance through Social Enterprises” was one of 33 chosen during this year’s World Bank-sponsored Panibagong Paraan contest.

Unlad Kabayan won a grant of P1 million for the project that involves working with government officials and a cooperative in the municipality.

Bernice Roldan explains Unlad Kabayan would have to work with Kolambogan Mayor Bertrand Lumaque and the Lanao Comrades Multipurpose Cooperative so that three pilot enterprises in the farming and coastal municipality start off within a year.

Roldan said Lumaque committed nearly P2.2 million while Unlad Kabayan promised to set aside P0.9 million for the project.

With the grant via the World Bank contest, these enterprises would be started with P3.079 million ($69,977.30 at US$1=P44), merely ten percent of what the municipality received as internal revenue allotment (IRA) in 2006.

Roldan told the OFW Journalism Consortium that Unlad Kabayan will start up an integrated bio-resource farming enterprise, a coco-coir processing facility, and setting up of recycled container gardens at some residents’ backyards.

The first two enterprises are among the enterprises that Unlad Kabayan had set up in other provinces, such as Bohol, Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, and Davao Oriental, as well as in Davao City.

The container gardening business, meanwhile, was a request by local residents, Roldan said.

Pieced peace

UNLAD’S Roldan, without citing actual figures, said “many residents went overseas” citing the peace and order situation, aside from lack of gainful income, as reasons for leaving Kolambogan.

Kolambogan is one of 22 municipalities in this province tagged as the gateway to the four cities of the Mindanao island group.

According to its website, Kolambogan was a small barrio inhabited by native Maranaos and Christians before American migrant settlers began harvesting timber.

Currently, the fourth class municipality of the second-class province of Lanao del Norte has vast agricultural lands which are mainly planted to coconut.

The website, however, cited that nearly 14,000 residents are poor and some 3,683 households “are not gainfully employed”.

The municipality’s 24,180 total people form five percent of the total population of Lanao del Norte at 473,062, according to recent government census.

According to its latest report, a total of 17,269 OFWs were recorded by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in 2006 as coming from Lanao del Norte.

Government data that year also showed Lanao del Norte, located in central Mindanao, has 7,103 temporary contract workers (5,621 land-based and 1,482 sea-based).

Some 3,282 of registered overseas permanent residents from 1988 to 2005 also cited the province as their home town.

While some residents have joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), even some OFW families have their own domestic problems that escalated into a public safety issue, such as the shooting incident between a returned seafarer and his wife, Roldan added.

“The disturbed peace and order coupled with labor disputes in Kolambogan’s biggest industrial firm was a major setback in its population growth,” its website [www.kolambogan.gov.ph] said.

News reports cited a dozen people were kidnapped by bandits mid-June this year, overshadowed only by the kidnapping in Sulu of television journalist Ces Drilon and two cameramen.

More than the money and the dream enterprises to be set up, Roldan said the project proponents will confront peace and order issues, as well as visible poverty, in Kolambogan.

Recently, a shuttered timber company displaced more than 2,000 workers while typhoons of recent years hit half of the population’s farmlands.

Kolambogan farmers earn P1,500 monthly while fisherfolk earn less, at least P1,200 monthly.

Kolambogan’s IRA reached some P25.636 million in 2003 to a high of P30.237 million in 2006. The website said “limited resources” plague the municipality.

Migrant investment

A PORTION of Unlad Kabayan’s Panibagong Paraan grant will be used to survey households of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kolambogan.

Roldan said such survey is required since the project also hopes to mobilize investments from overseas Filipinos and from local savings.

Unlad’s project targets to benefit 38 overseas Filipino workers and OFW families as well as a hundred farmers, 85 local workers, and 37 micro-entrepreneurs.

The project hopes to create a migrant and community investment fund that will fund some of the town’s social services for women, youth, and even OFW families.

Project proponents, according to Roldan, would also conduct business advisory services to set up the three target social enterprises within a year.

Kolambogan’s website lists down some 45 “investible programs” for local and outside interested parties to consider –from school buildings to agriculture and fisheries projects.

Another outcome of the Panibagong Paraan project, Roldan said, is the setting up of an OFW desk in the LGU.

Roldan added that Unlad would try to access soft loans from a one-year, P10 million credit facility that the Development Bank of the Philippines entrusted to Unlad Kabayan for the whole of Lanao del Norte.

This Mindanao-targeted loan facility that Unlad Kabayan will manage as a business assistance center was turned over weeks before Panibagong Paraan.

Some 110 of these beneficiaries are women, Unlad Kabayan’s Panibagong Paraan project brief wrote.

But DBP president Reynaldo David said the bank’s microfinance and non-microfinance wholesale partners, including Unlad Kabayan, should offer easy terms to micro-entrepreneurs.

“Or else, [DBP] will not deal with them the following year,” David told reporters.

This is why some incomes from Panibagong Paraan project will go to an migrant and community investment fund, Roldan explained.
The 12-year-old Unlad Kabayan is applying its migrant savings and alternative investment (MSAI) approach that it began among migrant workers in Hong Kong.

According to the group’s press materials, two strategies make up MSAI: social entrepreneurship and enterprise development services, and business incubation.

The Panibagong Paraan grant is the third successful award that Unlad Kabayan secured this year after its major fund source, coming from Netherlands-based donor Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, dried up.