14 March 2024 | via a recorded message

Officers of the First Circle, fellow workers in government, business leaders, entrepreneurs, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; a pleasant day to all of you.

It is an honor and privilege to address you today on a matter of utmost importance: the pivotal role of the government sector in supporting our small and medium enterprises (SMEs). As the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), I am firmly committed to championing the development of our SMEs, recognizing them as the backbone of our economy and the engine of growth and innovation.

In a dynamic and ever-evolving economic landscape, SMEs play a critical role in fostering economic resilience, generating job, and promoting inclusive growth. Therefore, under the Marcos Jr. administration, we aim to extend unwavering support to enable our SMEs to thrive and reach their full potential.

At the DTI, we have implemented programs to empower and uplift our SMEs. Allow me to highlight some of these initiatives:

First, we recognize the importance of access to finance for SMEs. We have various financing programs for providing SMEs with accessible and affordable credit, enabling them to expand their operations, invest in innovation, and seize growth opportunities. Examples of these financing programs are the RISE UP Multi-Purpose Loan for SME First Time Borrowers and the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-Asenso (P3) Program, which we offer through our Small Business Corporation (or SB Corp).

Furthermore, we are keen on investing in knowledge and skills development that are paramount for SME competitiveness. Through our mentorship and training programs under the Kapatid Mentor ME (Micro Entrepreneur) Program, we equip SMEs with the necessary business acumen, technical expertise, and current market insights to successfully navigate the complexities of the business landscape.

We have launched the One Town, One Product (OTOP) Philippines Program in line with our commitment to expand market access for our domestic businesses, particularly the small ones. This program aims to promote local products and crafts, enhance product quality, and facilitate market linkages for SMEs across the country. By showcasing Filipino craftsmanship and ingenuity, we boost local economies, strengthen our national pride, and preserve our cultural heritage.

We also see the digital revolution as a game-changer for SMEs. Hence, we offer programs like the SME Roving Academy and the E- commerce Philippines Program. These initiatives equip our SMEs with the tools, training, and support they need to thrive online. By mastering e-commerce, digital marketing, and online platforms, SMEs can expand their reach and tap into global markets, taking their businesses to the next level.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of the 21st- century economy, let us champion the advancement of our SMEs. Together, let us harness the full potential of our SME sector by unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit and building a future of collective success and sustainable growth for all.

Through a strong private and public partnership, like between the government, and the First Circle, we will welcome a Bagong Pilipinas that enables our SMEs to thrive and prosper.

Before I end, I wish to congratulate the First Circle on its 8th Anniversary. Your event this afternoon is an excellent way to celebrate such an important milestone. Congratulations!

Thank you! Mabuhay tayong lahat!

Date of release: 14 March 2024