The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said it is “crucial” at this point to take action to develop the agricultural sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), as these are the drivers of the economy in the country.
“With so many challenges, it is critical at this point that immediate action is taken to develop our farming sector and micro and small businesses – the engines of the rural and rural economy -” said PCCI President George T .Barcelon issued a statement released last Sunday.
In a meeting with Rep. Mario Vittorio “Marvey” A. Mariño, chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Industry, the PCCI said it gives top priority to agriculture and the development of MSMEs to rebuild the country to a stronger one Business.
Referring to agricultural modernization and productivity, Paul Cuyegkeng, Chairman of the PCCI’s Committee on Agriculture and Food Security, called for an increase in the budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA). Cuyegkeng noted that the DA budget should reflect the sector’s contribution to the economy.
He said funding should be made easily accessible to farmers through a bond system backed by warehouse receipts as security.
The PCCI official also highlighted the new government’s Build Better More (BBM) infrastructure program, which Cuyegkeng said should prioritize farm-to-market roads, irrigation and post-harvest facilities to build the value chain from production to construction market.
CUYEGKENG also called for an amendment to the Agrarian Reform Act to increase land ownership and allow consolidation of land by agrarian reform beneficiaries to enable economies of scale and improve the efficiency of the sector.
Private sector representatives also underlined the role of MSMEs in stimulating national development.
Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. and PCCI MSME Director Apolinar E. Aure are pushing for the Magna Carta amendment for MSME law.
The Philexport boss complained that the lack of access to finance prevented small traders from realizing their full potential.
“Lack of access to finance is a key obstacle to why MSMEs continue to struggle. Despite the passage of the Magna Carta for MSMEs in 2014, which requires banks to allocate 10 percent of their loan portfolio to small businesses, compliance with regulatory loan levels has not improved,” said Ortiz-Luis.
He added that banks continue to choose to impose penalties for non-compliance rather than take the risks associated with lending to small businesses.
In its statement, the PCCI said it is “advocating” for alternative bank compliance, lending through microfinance institutions and co-ops as channels. The group said “this will address the problem of bank lending to risky creditors such as MSMEs and farmers.”
In addition, the group said it may also “be worth” considering adopting the programs of the United States Small Business Administration, which it says not only makes loans but also maintains various services for small businesses, including technical support to obtain loans, guarantees and contracts. Andrea SanJuan
The PCCI has also expressed concern about the country’s pressing issues that need to be addressed, such as the rising cost of raw material inputs, including sugar, utilities and services; and the tough measures the industry faces if the government commits to reducing the country’s carbon emissions.
Regarding jobs, the PCCI expressed concern about the lack of skills needed by industries.
Meanwhile, the group has also pushed ahead with other key policy recommendations, including allowing manufacturers to directly import their sugar needs through a sugar tarrification measure.
The group also reiterated its lobby for an amendment to the Philippine Ports Corp. (Philports) Act, which they say aims to promote “competitiveness” among port operators. Business groups have backed this House bill as it aims to strip the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) of its mandate as a revenue source and instead confine the PPA to its role as a developer and operator of public ports.
Regarding connectivity, PCCI also calls on the government to modernize the legal framework for internet and digital connectivity.
Key policy recommendations the group is pushing for include energy aimed at ensuring high quality and affordable electricity and considering nuclear power as an alternative reliable baseload energy for energy-intensive manufacturing operations.
Still from the energy perspective, the PCCI expressed hopes of strengthening energy-from-waste programs through a partnership between national and local government and the business sector.
Finally, the group aims to ‘proclaim’ qualification standards for all levels of education and training, to ensure graduates meet the needs of the industry.
For his part, Mariño expressed his support for the PCCI’s priorities, noting that he will work closely with the Chamber and Executive Department as they achieve the common goal of inclusive and resilient economic growth.
Lawmakers shared the PCCI’s desire to bring investment to areas outside and far from metropolitan areas, which it says is an effective way to decongest urban areas.