Thank you and good afternoon. It’s great to be back here. We were here earlier to launch the IFEX and now we’re launching a very special project, a project close to my heart. Because it’s a project that really would empower and enable those at the bottom of the pyramid.

RAPID, as explained, was about increasing rural income and solving poverty. Those are the key objectives of our president, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. By the way, the previous speaker is not the president. He might have some semblance but he’s not the Mayor.

The beauty of this project is coming to fruition everything we’re working for, especially our field—a much stronger linkage between agri and industry. We’re grateful for the Department of Agriculture. Secretary Pinol is unfortunately out of town so he couldn’t join us. And also, of course, our different agency partners who are part of the steering committee. Our thanks of course to the next speaker, IFAD Country Director, Alessandro Marini, our Usec. Macatoman who’s always been in support of projects especially on the trade promotions side, with CITEM. Thanks for allowing RAPID Project to be launched here in IFEX. The youth representative of the MSMED Council, Archie, thank you for joining us. The project representative of the RAPID Project, Dir. Lydia Guevarra, thank you for joining us.

Before this got the approval of the ICC, the Investment Coordinating Council, and all our DTI family, the directors around us, the regional and provincial directors. All of us are really working toward this agri-industry integration. To us, what is needed is making sure our farmers have better income, better productivity, better yield in their production, and better output that will support the requirements in the micro SME sector. Basically, SME, the bigger ones. Because these are guys that will be able to export or supply to the domestic market in a big way. To create a bigger requirement, a bigger demand for agriculture produce.

So it’s really important that, as mentioned, that this RAPID project is market-driven. Everything that is produced in the value chain, what will be planted, coffee, cacao, coconut, fruit nuts, will have the demand, will have the market that will be processed by the micro SMEs. The project is really a very specific in terms of identifying the beneficiaries. We’re talking of specific numbers and names of beneficiaries. About 1,000 micro SMEs will be supported, their business models leveled-up, better packaging of products, more innovating of agriculture products that will make it marketable in the first place, so there will be greater demand that will be required from the agriculture sector. That is the link that we are strengthening.

The agriculture sector will also be supported through technology, seeds, and all that to improve the productivity and soon their income, that’s the bottom line. We’re excited to talk about this project because this is not just in paper, there will be actual support to the agriculture farmers, as to the tools, implements, but at the same time making sure that productivity goes up, income goes up, and on the SME side, improving also their business models.

Talking about the grassroots, I must also recognize a good friend, Dr. Alip who is the founder of CARD MRI. Kung hindi niyo alam, CARD MRI is the biggest microfinancing and microinsuring company institution in country, with over 6.5 million borrowers. I’m amazed. He’s also helping us sa  program ni President Duterte na Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) Program. We only have about 80,000 borrowers. Our portfolio is just PHP 2 billion so far. With the additional budget of PHP 1.5 billion, so that’s 3.5 billion. We’ll be able to service more than 80,000 this year. But he has 6.5 million nationwide, including Muslim areas. He has, by the way, actually joined the program using his own money.

He added Php 200 million to Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso to augment what the government has provided. He has insured, I think up to PHP 22 million, microinsurance. I’m mentioning that because our emphasis is grassroots. The DTI, for the information of everyone, has very small budget. I think that’s about Php 4 or 5 billion. We’re 0.3 percent of the total budget. We’re only reaching up to the municipal level. We’re targeting to put one Negosyo Center per municipality. We’re not up to 1,070. We’re only up to that point.

When you talk of grassroots, you talk of the barangay. Ilan ba ang barangay? Mga 45,000. We’re not even there. What we’re trying to do is extending our network not using our budget, but using the LGU budget. Partnership. Making sure that for every barangay, there would be a Negosyo Advocate. Making sure also these Negosyo Advocates will link up with the Negosyo Centers. Because DTI resources are so limited. Our frustration is that we don’t have a Negosyo Clinic for every barangay. But we’re like entrepreneurs. We find ways.

Our President always tells me that you just empower those who are weak because when you empower the bottom of the pyramid, you empower the nation. And RAPID is one project that helps us achieve that.
Maraming salamat po.