28 July 2020, as delivered

To Secretary Boy dela Pena, PCW Chairwoman Sandy Montano, WBC Chairwoman Monette Itturalde-Hamlin, WBC President and our good friend Mylene Abiva, to our dear officers, members, and partners of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines, and to all of you, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

I would like to thank the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines for inviting me to speak before you today. I would also like to congratulate the newly-inducted officers of the Council. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) looks forward to closely working with all of you, especially as the world faces challenging times as the COVID-19 pandemic changes the way we do business.

I was also particularly enthused by the fact that DTI was a major part of your beginnings. I am happy to realize that, being part of the beginnings of the WBC.

Personally, I am glad that the Women’s Business Council is with us to face these challenges. Women in the Philippines have always been at the entrepreneurial forefront, having to constantly deal with barriers in setting up their own businesses. Fortunately, our country is blessed with many talented and determined women entrepreneurs especially all of you in the Women’s Business Council. I’d like to point out that in 2019, 64% of MSMEs assisted by DTI’s Negosyo Centers were women.

With the full support of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, DTI is helping our women entrepreneurs through targeted interventions. For example, DTI is collaborating with USAID on their “Connecting Women to the Digital Economy” project. Here, women entrepreneurs selected by DTI can gain digital skillsets and tools. What’s more, they can have access to online market platforms like Shopee, Lazada, and Facebook. This digital program is timely as our women MSMEs adjust to the “New Normal” of the pandemic.

Likewise, DTI has its Gender and Development (GAD) initiatives, which is in service of Republic Act 9170, or the Magna Carta of Women of 2009. GAD provides specific interventions for women’s economic empowerment by boosting their participation and benefits in livelihood and entrepreneurial activities.

Under GAD, DTI has the Great Women Project 2 supported by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This program promotes and supports a gender-responsive, enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment. During its run, it assisted 274 Women Micro Enterprises.

Currently ongoing is the Investing in Women Asia in partnership with the Australia government. This program focuses on impact investing activities to increase women-led businesses and come up with a stronger gender lens in investing in women-led SMEs. Phase 2 of this program is set to run from 2019 to 2023.

Another project is SheTrades being developed by DTI with the International Trade Centre. This project will expand women entrepreneurs’ access to international markets and promote their economic empowerment. It will also increase women-owned businesses’ participation in trade by improving their competitiveness and strengthening their market linkages.

DTI also has the Responsible Supply Chains in Asia project with the help of the European Union (EU), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Moreover, we are working with you, as well as the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on the APEC Women and Economy (WE) project.

May mga nakahanda rin pong mga programa ang DTI para matulungan ang ating mga MSMEs, pati na rin ang mga kailangan kumita ng kabuhayan sa panahon ng pandemiya. Nariyan po ang COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program, na may Php1.0B-Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing (ERF) facility sa ilalim ng Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3). Sa programang ito, maari pong kumuha ng loans o mangutang na walang interes, at walang hinihinging collateral requirement, para sa mga micro and small businesses na lubhang naapektuhan ng pandemiya.

Another DTI program is our Livelihood Seeding Program – Negosyo sa Barangay (LSP-NSB) program with a funding of Php203M for 2021. This program offers packages of livelihood kits and business advisory assistance and services to MSMEs affected by natural and human-induced calamities, including pandemics.

DTI also has free online tech tools for MSMEs to help them reinvent their business during the pandemic. We provide information on different technology, tools, applications, platforms, and resources available for MSMEs to cope with the challenges of quarantine. Moreover, MSMEs can take advantage of our “CTRL+BIZ Reboot Now!” program, a series of free webinars so that they can transform their business digitally. Right now, we also have the USAID Project now to empower OTOP entrepreneurs to go and market online.

In yesterday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte, he highlighted priority initiatives for DTI to focus on to help in our country’s recovery. Primarily, we will intensify efforts to help businesses affected by the pandemic, especially MSMEs, by providing them with government assistance and services, capitalization, and business operations support.

DTI, with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), will also create entrepreneurship, special training, and agri-business projects for our displaced OFWs to rebuild their livelihoods. Meanwhile, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will provide scholarships for the children of OFWs. If OFWs need financial assistance to start their own business, we have the

recently-launched “Helping the Economy Recover thru OFW Enterprise Start-ups” (HEROES) program that can offer them loans.

DTI will also push the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and local banks to provide regulatory relief for MSMEs by allowing loan payment extensions without extra fees and charges. Likewise, we will push commercial establishments to give longer grace periods on their rents and allow deferment of payments for MSMEs and also lower rental fees moving forward so that these businesses can recover.

Presently, we are promoting nationwide media campaign to “Buy Local, Go Lokal,” to help severely affected MSMEs recover from the pandemic. Buying local and traveling locally will not only generate more revenues for these businesses, it will help prevent their collapse and re-stimulate demand, and obviously and definitely, it will also help the local governments.

As we help MSMEs go digital, DTI will enforce online and consumer data protection and privacy laws to strengthen the public’s trust in e-commerce. Nabanggit din po ito ni Presidente kahapon sa SONA. We will also run after online scammers, sabi po ng ating mahal na Pangulo. Lastly, to ensure Ease of Doing Business, DTI will promote greater e- governance and ensure that physical queuing is a thing of the past. We have always said that going online and making sure that government transactions are done online is the ultimate ease-of-doing-business.

Ngunit bago po ako magtapos, nananawagan po ako sa inyong lahat, na sa ating pag- adjust o pag-adapt sa “New Normal”, tayo rin po ay magsikap at magkaisa tungo sa isang “Better Normal.” Kahanay ang mga kababaihan sa pagharap sa mga pagsubok, patuloy po tayong magtulungan sa pagbuo ng isang mas progresibong lipunan, ayon sa pangarap ng ating Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte at ng marami sa atin na sana ang bawat pamilyang Pilipino ay may ligtas, masagana, at komportableng buhay.

Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat at mabuhay tayong lahat.

And once again, congratulations po sa mga officers ng Women’s Business Council of the Philippines!