19 November 2020 via Zoom

Ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

At the onset, allow me to thank The Ayala Corporation for supporting our Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with the launch of the Ayala Enterprise Circle (AEC).

We are glad that our private sector partners like Ayala have been doing their share in helping our MSMEs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that restrictions from community quarantine guidelines and disruptions in supply chains, on top of low customer demand for goods and services, have resulted in sharp decline of cash flows of almost all types of businesses, especially for the capital deficient MSMEs.

I would like to personally thank the Ayala group for heeding the call of government to provide rent relief to the MSMEs lessees. In particular, they’ve been provided outright waivers on rents for a couple of months as well as discounted rates thereafter. They’ve also been given several relief measures like grace period on bank loans. Maraming salamat po on behalf of the MSME sector.

But despite these economic challenges during this pandemic that have affected all businesses, you have continued to assist the many SMEs that are part of the Ayala ecosystem. We laud your initiative and we hope that this will lead to more SMEs in your new entrepreneurial network to scale up and prosper.

On our part, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been continuously working to assist our MSMEs. Under Republic Act No. 11494, the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” (or BAYANIHAN 2), the COVID Assistance to Restart Enterprise 2 (or CARES 2) Program has a budget of Php10B for interest-free loans to MSMEs affected by the pandemic.

We also have the CTRL+BIZ REBOOT NOW! Program, which is a series of free webinars that give MSMEs information on transforming their businesses digitally and helps them to upgrade their skills. Likewise, our Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Online Program provides entrepreneurship training adjusted to the “New Normal” with our mentors now available to support them virtually.

Last but not least, we have our “BUY LOCAL, GO LOKAL!” nationwide campaign that promotes locally-made and proudly Filipino products as part of our campaign to restore consumer confidence. All these DTI programs are available to aid MSMEs not only survive the present economic crisis but to thrive in a post-pandemic future.

Speaking of consumer confidence, the community quarantine lockdowns have earlier eased to General Community Quarantine (or GCQ). As the months pass by, we worked on further reopening the economy gradually and safely while keeping strict health protocol to ensure that we manage the virus that will allow us to further reopen more sectors. Several businesses have been allowed to operate from 50% to 100% operating capacity. These include malls and commercial centers, as well as service and manufacturing sectors.

With more businesses operating and to further boost consumer confidence, government eased up on the allowable age range to go out, which is now from 15 years old—or some from 18 years old– to 65 years old. And local governments have eased up on curfew hours, now mostly at 12-4 am and going to 12-3am by December. As our commercial establishments have longer operating hours, our people can stay with them longer.

But it’s important to remember that reopening businesses need to strictly follow health protocols to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread. In summary, the 7 Commandments of Minimum Health Standards should be strictly followed. To reiterate, these are: (1) wear a face mask; (2) wear a face shield; (3) no talking, no eating specially in public transport; (4) allow for more ventilation; (5) keep physical distance; (6) frequent disinfection; and (7) no symptomatic, which means isolating the positives.

As we gradually reopen our economy, we’ve already seen signs of recovery with our GDP slowly improving from -16.5% in the 2nd quarter of this year to -11.5% in the 3rd quarter. What’s more, our unemployment rate has dropped to 10% last July from 17.7% in April, which was at the height of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, our merchandise exports have climbed back to 2.2% last September from a low of -50.8% last April. Net Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to the Philippines have also picked up by 41% as of August which is an uptrend for the past 4 months!!

In closing, rest assured that DTI and other government agencies are here to assist businesses, especially our MSMEs, as our country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, DTI fully supports the AEC initiative to upskill, connect, and enable the growth of your SMEs during this period.

As we adjust to the “New Normal,” let us instead create a “Better Normal” for our countrymen. We hope that you—our private sector partners—will continue working with us in a whole-of-nation effort to build back a better Philippines for a brighter future. In doing so, we will give our people a better and more comfortable quality of life as promised by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat.♦

Date of Release: 23 November 2020