Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Opening of the 2016 National Arts and Crafts Fair
26 October 2016 |Megatrade Hall, SM Megamall
For many, heritage and development are two contrasting concepts because development is usually associated with what is new and that which would make life better and comfortable; while heritage is that which is old, less exciting and usually commemorated only during special occasions.
Heritage and development is like soul versus stomach. Many would argue that heritage cannot feed us. But looking around this hall today, we are filled with our heritage—traditions, art and culture, indigenous knowledge, skills and practices, local crafts—which have become a source of livelihood and development of families, communities and our nation as a whole.
Today, we see our heritage as a source of income, as a way to create more micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The importance of MSMEs goes beyond what we see in statistics that the sector comprises more than 99 percent of the total business enterprises operating in the country, because MSMEs, aside from boosting the country’s economic development, is a vital part of every individual’s way of life. Micro enterprises like sari-sari store, bakery, eatery, botika are staple in our barangays, they have become important part of our community, our daily living.
MSMEs are the future of business and investment in the country. I believe that the growth of wage employment opportunities has always been difficult owing to a lot of domestic as well as global problems. Thus, beyond just the provision of short-term remedies, like wage hikes and wider benefits of the employed, we should provide long term solutions that are independent of the traditional wage employment avenues.
Viable employment alternatives such as self-employment, particularly on micro enterprise activities, will strongly complement the overall provision of jobs for the growing workforce that is so dependent on wage employment.
In 2008, we succeeded in enacting Republic Act No. 9501, also known as the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which I authored.
The MSME Law provides more assistance to entrepreneurs by requiring lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent (8%), an increase from the previous six percent (6%), of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses. It also provides access to new technologies and regular entrepreneurship training programs for workers to ensure the viability and growth of MSMEs in the country.
We also have the Barangay Kabuhayan Law (RA 9509). These two laws complement each other since recipients of the livelihood and skills training programs in the centers established under the Barangay Kabuhayan Law may well avail of the funding and technical support that are available under the MSMEs Act.
In order to make these laws even more effective, there should be convergence and coordination among the agencies under DTI. For instance, the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP) can help the industries that need assistance in design to ensure the competitiveness of our products. The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) can help MSMEs participate in trade fairs for more exposure and to market their products. The Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Project—which aims to improve the competitiveness of MSMEs by providing them with machinery, equipment, tools, systems, skills and knowledge under a shared system—is an important tool that we can use to reach the bottom of the pyramid.
The DTI’s role is very crucial in uplifting the poor and expanding opportunities for those who are already in the MSME sector. That is why I have asked the DTI to mandate all its regional offices to take a more proactive approach in extending support to the marginalized through the conduct of entrepreneurship and livelihood training aimed at enhancing the value of each town’s products and the competitiveness of rural enterprise.
We have to help those who have greater needs, those who will never be employed in mega businesses but could still have a fighting chance for profitable means of livelihood. The vigilance of the DTI in assisting and training more micro-entrepreneurs with product development, product quality, good management, labeling and marketing through their personnel assigned in the provinces will be an invaluable economic growth boost.
The MSME industry in the country has a huge potential if given the adequate support and what I would want to see is how we can further promote our culture and heritage through MSMEs.
The DTI can explore this with our cultural agencies, particularly the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). The NCCA’s Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) can be recipients of various programs of DTI; that way, not only are we providing support to the livelihood of our entrepreneurs among indigenous communities, but also boost tourism, strengthen trade and promote culture.
Our indigenous craftsmen present here today are our living heritage because their work proves that even with modernity and amid the technological innovations available in the market today, nothing beats the beauty of crafts made by the hands of artisans who put their heart and soul into the work that they do, who craft not only to make a living but also to preserve heritage and keep their tradition alive.
Today, we see convergence of heritage and development. This fair is a powerful platform to promote MSMEs as viable rural livelihoods and to showcase Filipino home-made products as well as individual and indigenous talents. This is a perfect demonstration that art is an enabler of development and that culture is wealth. I hope this will also be a venue where Filipinos can better appreciate our culture and tradition, our arts and crafts, and realize that, indeed, our rich cultural heritage has a place in this fast-paced world.