THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said it is “critical” at this point to take measures to develop the agriculture sector and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as these are drivers of the economy in the countryside.
“With so many challenges, it is critical at this point that measures are immediately taken to develop our agriculture sector and micro and small enterprises —the drivers of the economy in the rural areas and the countryside,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon said in a statement issued last Sunday.
In a meeting with Rep. Mario Vittorio “Marvey” A. Mariño, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Trade and Industry, the PCCI said it is putting the highest priority on agriculture and MSME development as a way for the country to rebuild a stronger economy.
As for agriculture modernization and productivity, Paul Cuyegkeng, chairman of PCCI’s agriculture and food security committee, called for increasing the budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA). Cuyegkeng noted the DA budget should be commensurate with the sector’s contribution to the economy.
He said that financing should be made easily accessible to farmers through a guarantee system backed by warehouse receipts as collateral.
The PCCI official also highlighted the “Build Better More” (BBM) infrastructure program of the new administration, which Cuyegkeng said should give priority to farm-to-market roads, irrigation and post-harvest facilities to build the value chain from production to the market.
CUYEGKENG also called for the amendment to the Agrarian Reform Law to increase landholding size and allow the consolidation of lands by the agrarian reform beneficiaries to enable economies of scale and improve the sector’s efficiency.
Private sector representatives also underscored the role of MSMEs in stimulating country-wide development.
Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. and PCCI Director for MSMEs Apolinar E. Aure are pushing for the amendment to the Magna Carta for MSMEs Act.
The Philexport chief lamented that lack of access to finance hinders the small merchants from unleashing their full potential.
“Lack of access to finance is a major constraint on why MSMEs continue to struggle. Despite the enactment of the Magna Carta for the MSMEs in 2014 mandating banks to allocate 10 percent of their credit portfolio to small businesses, compliance to mandatory lending levels has not improved,” Ortiz-Luis said.
He added that banks continue to choose to incur penalties for non-compliance rather than take the risks associated with lending to small businesses.
IN its statement, the PCCI said it has been “championing” for the alternative compliance by banks by lending through Microfinance institutions and cooperatives as conduits. The business group said “this will address the issue of bank lending to high-risk creditors such as MSMEs and farmers.”
In addition, the business group said it may also be “worthwhile” to consider adopting the programs of the Small Business Administration of the United States, which it said does not simply provide loans but maintains several services to small businesses including technical assistance to be able to get loans, guarantees and contracts. Andrea San Juan
The PCCI has also voiced its concerns on the pressing issues in the country that needs to be ironed out such as the rising costs of raw material inputs including sugar, utilities and services; and the stringent measures industries face as the government commits to bring down the country’s carbon emission.
As for jobs, the PCCI expressed its concern on the shortage of skills required by industries.
Meanwhile, the business group has also pushed forward other key policy recommendations including allowing manufacturers to directly import their sugar requirements through a sugar tarrification measure.
THE group also reiterated its lobby to amend the Philippine Ports Corp. (Philports) Act which it said aims to promote “competitive netruality” in ports operators. Business groups have been backing this House bill as this aims to strip the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) of its mandate as a revenue generator and confines the PPA instead to its role as public port developer and operator.
In relation to connectivity, PCCI is also urging the government to modernize the legislative framework on internet and digital connectivity.
Among the key policy recommendations that the group is pushing for is on energy, aimed at ensuring quality and affordable power and consideration of nuclear power as alternative reliable baseload power for energy intensive manufacturing operations.
Still under the energy facet, the PCCI expressed hope to strengthen waste-to-energy programs through a national and local government and business sector partnership.
Lastly, the business group aims to “promulgate” qualification standards for all levels of education and training to ensure that graduates meet industry requirements.
For his part, Mariño expressed his support for PCCI’s priorities, noting that he will closely work with the chamber and with the Executive Department as they carry out the common goal of an inclusive and resilient economic growth.
The lawmaker shared PCCI’s aspiration to bring investments in the areas outside of and far from metropolitan areas, which he said is an effective way to decongest urban areas.