Mahalin ang Ating Kultura: Loren Legarda and Kultura: Empowering micro-entrepreneurs

September 8, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – As a woman who has worked long years both in the broadcast industry and in public service, Senator Loren Legarda knows the importance of women being able to discover their potential and to grow; enabling their families to have better lives.

“Women, especially housewives, usually explore opportunities for extra income for their households,” says Legarda. “That’s why we help provide viable income alternatives to women when we support the growth of micro-enterprises.”

Empowering women and helping micro-entrepreneurs are among the things that Legarda and Kultura Filipino share. Now on her third term, Legarda says she will focus on legislative measures and programs that will improve the lives of Filipinos. The only female senator to top the Senate race twice, with more than 15 million votes in 1998 and 18.4 million votes in 2007, Legarda has been at the forefront of many landmark pieces of legislation especially on the environment and livelihood. In the senatorial elections last May, she was the top choice among reelected senators with 18.66 million votes.

As author of the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which was enacted as Republic Act No. 9501 in 2008, Legarda’s work with MSMEs brings together two advocacies close to her heart — livelihood and women’s rights. She has launched several initiatives to make sure that support is available for micro-entrepreneur projects all around the country.

As early as her first term, Legarda supported the TESDA Women Center Alumni Association (TWCAA), which trains women in entrepreneurship and livelihood skills.

The MSME Law provides further assistance to entrepreneurs by requiring lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent (previously six percent) of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses. It also provides access to new technologies and regular entrepreneurship training program for workers to ensure the viability and growth of MSMEs in the country.

This, along with the other programs for MSMEs, has generated employment of over 920,000 from July 2011 to July 2012 alone, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. About 76,000 MSMEs have expanded their operations.

Beyond the vigorous promotion and implementation of the MSME Law, Legarda also authored the Barangay Kabuhayan Law or RA 9509, which aims to establish a livelihood and skills training center in fourth, fifth and sixth class municipalities. This empowers local governments to enhance the productive capabilities of their large, yet untapped human resource and to open doors for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the countryside.

In 2011, the number of graduates from TESDA’s Barangay Livelihood programs hit 43,832 out of 44,537 enrollees. More recently, TESDA records show that 29,877 out of 31,218 enrollees in these programs graduated from January to August 2012.

Among the bills that Sen. Loren filed at the start of the 16th Congress is a measure that would provide micro-entrepreneurs more opportunities to expand their businesses. Building on the gains of the MSME Law, Legarda says she now wants to institute micro-enterprise development to accelerate socio-economic progress.

This bill proposing the creation of micro-enterprise development institutions (MEDIs) will expand, enhance and promote the access of the poor to microfinance services such as credit, insurance, savings and health care, enabling them to operate their own productive economic opportunities.

“Recognizing the enormous contribution of microfinance services in the fight against poverty, the national government should create an enabling environment for the promotion, broadening, and enhancement of such services to the low income population,” she stresses.

During one of her visits to Kultura Filipino in SM Makati, Legarda was happy to discover that Kultura shares her advocacy for micro-entrepreneurship.

“I find Kultura’s support for micro-entrepreneurial programs laudable and I hope more business ventures would follow and consider such an exemplary and worthwhile investment. Our support for micro-enterprises is one way of promoting inclusive growth,” she says.

Here, she saw beautifully hand-painted piña shawls from La Herminia, one of the micro-entrepreneur groups that she supports. La Herminia is a small-scale industry that uses natural fiber from pineapple, silk cocoons, abaca and cotton with the fabric colored in vegetable dye. La Herminia also helps preserve our cultural heritage as all the process are done in traditional methods — from manual extraction of fiber to weaving. While there are innovations in processing, these are done without sacrificing quality. Multi-harness looms, for example, are used to produce more intricate designs like the pili or sinuksuk.

Kultura also carries fashionable tops made of banana silk from Rurungan sa Tubod, a non-profit organization based in the Island of Palawan. Rurungan sa Tubod not only creates beautiful clothes made of banana silk fibers and piña, but also as an alternative livelihood for women in the more poverty-stricken areas in the province.

Kultura Filipino is located in SM Makati, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, SM City Cebu, SM Lanang Premier, SM Aura and in selected SM Stores.

Source: PhilStar