June 6, 2023

The gloomy picture the Covid-19 pandemic painted on the country’s business landscape has not only created radical changes on sellers and consumers’ behaviors, but also on how government agencies fulfill their mandates.

For the Department of Trade and Industry, the agency tasked to promote a competitive and innovative industry and services sector while advancing consumer rights and protection, the restrictions on physical or face-to-face transactions have altered the manner by which it delivers its services.

Particularly, the DTI will have to work harder in making the 7Ms framework become effective in uplifting the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – the sector consi-dered as the country’s economic driver, but unfortunately bore the brunt of the economic slowdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

DTI’s 7Ms framework stands for mindset change, mastery, mentoring, money, machine, market access, and models of negosyo.

Among the 7Ms, possibly the most challenging for the MSMEs is mindset change as this is no longer confined to convincing them to embrace the right and positive entrepreneurial attitude, but has also called on the MSMEs to accept the fact that the business landscape amidst the pandemic is now geared towards contactless and cashless transactions.

DTI-Cordillera Trade and Industry Development Specialist Chief Felicitas Bandonill shared the view that entrepreneurs have no choice but to adapt to the changing business landscape.

Particularly, MSMEs are being encouraged to boost their online presence and use social media to reach and communicate with their customers, a concern that can only be addressed fully if the country’s Internet connectivity is improved.

“They have to adjust to the new normal despite the challenges,” Bandonnil said, noting the problem on poor Internet connectivity is not exclusive to MSMEs in the Cordillera, but also to those in other regions.

Even the DTI has to adjust the conduct of training to equip the MSMEs with the right skills and tools to help them get back on their feet.

“We have adopted the blended (mode) of providing trainings – online and physical. In instances where our speakers cannot interact with the trainees online due to lack of Internet connectivity, we record their lectures to be viewed by participants attending face-to-face trainings,” Bandonill said.

She is optimistic the trainings for MSMEs to do social media marketing, how to go about cashless transactions, and how to package products for delivery to areas other than where these were manufactured or produced will help boost the sector’s competitiveness.

In terms of fund assistance, DTI, in partnership with local government units and other institutions have been providing low interest, non-collateral loans to help the MSMEs.

In July, DTI’s financing arm, Small Business Corp., has so far released P22 million under the agency’s Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises program to help MSMEs recover from their losses. Forty-six MSMEs in the Cordillera have availed of the loan.

In Baguio, the city government launched the P100 million Revitalization Actions for a Vibrant Economy-Economic Stimulus Package, a zero-interest, soft loan for 9,209 MSMEs affected by the closure of non-essential businesses when the government started imposing a lockdown in March.

In terms of providing market access, the DTI has also gone online in helping the MSMEs promote their products.

In November, DTI-Cordillera launched the virtual trade exposition, “Impakabsat,” in which products of 80 MSMEs engaged in the production, manufacture, and sale of various products for personal, home and office use were showcased.

Through market access, one of DTI’s 7Ms framework, the agency also linked the MSMEs to major malls through the Go Lokal advocacy in which products from MSMEs are featured in spaces allotted by large shopping centers.

The economic losses incurred by the MSMEs from the Covid-19 pandemic could not be ascertained.

According to DTI-Cordillera data as of Nov. 30, the estimated number of MSMEs operating in full are 13,189; 10,698 on limited operations; and 2,705 have ceased operations.

Bandonill said during the enhanced community quarantine, 80 percent of the MSMEs have ceased operations, majority of which are micro enterprises or those with capitalization of P3M and below.

Just like the other sectors, Bandonill said the DTI has high hopes the MSMEs will slowly recover with the gradual and expanded opening of industries.

And although the full operations and full recovery of MSMEs are uncertain until the vaccine against the Covid-19 is available, Bandonill said one thing remains certain: Government agencies, like the DTI, will continue fulfilling their mandates to help every sector of society get back on their feet and overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic.