My daughter Camille, who represents the legislative district of Las Piñas City and who is also the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, recently filed a bill designating November as “Buy Pinoy, Build Pinoy Month.” But House Bill 5682 is more than appropriating a particular month to celebrate Filipino products. It does not pay lip service to Filipino-made products nor does it promote economic nationalism.
At its core, HB5682 aims to help the recovery of the Philippine economy from the pandemic by strengthening the vital cog that will help spur growth — Filipino entrepreneurs. In her explanatory note, Camille highlighted the “important role and contributions of homegrown enterprises to the domestic economy, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which employ more than 90 percent of the workforce and bore the brunt of the pandemic.”
I think that while many of us understandably focused on the health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, we paid scant attention to how small businesses got hit, some even completely wiped out, by the lockdowns and the pandemic. We saw many restaurants and shops closed. That meant more people lost their jobs and their ability to take care of their families.
Think about these. According to the 2021 List of Establishments (LE) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) there are a total of 1,080,810 business enterprises operating in the country. Of these, 1,076,279 or 99.58 percent are MSMEs and only 4,531 or 0.42 percent are large enterprises. It should not be surprising then that these MSMEs generated a total of 5,461,731 jobs or 64.67 percent of the country’s total employment. They also account for 25 percent of the country’s total exports revenue.
This means that any form of economic recovery must include steps to revive and support small businesses. Many MSMEs have in fact reopened after government eased mobility restrictions late last year but they are still hurting and reeling from the financial losses of the total lockdowns. Remember, these are small businesses with very limited resources.
The proposed legislation mandates the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to lead in carrying out “activities for Buy Pinoy Month, which shall include wide-ranging trade fairs, bazaars, marketing missions, information dissemination activities, and other similar events featuring Filipino products, inventions, and ingenuity.” This is very important because as Camille noted, “assistance and support in the form of marketing, information, and capacity-building campaigns…can be drivers of sales and advertisement (providing) substantial boost to local businesses.”
With limited resources, MSMEs usually do not have enough resources to put into marketing and promotions. So this “Buy Pinoy Month” and the proposed National Trade Fair to be held simultaneously in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao will certainly help Filipino producers, service providers, and products. The timing is also brilliant. As she explained: “In addition, celebrating it during the month of November enables a strategic timing where consumers will have the chance to support local brands during the holiday season.”
Some might say “why should I buy inferior Filipino products if imported ones are better?” First of all, that is patently false. While we encourage a situation where Filipino consumers have access to a wide range of options, Filipino products and services are of world-class quality.
More importantly, even assuming without conceding that Filipino products fall short, is it not our obligation to contribute to their betterment by supporting MSMEs in general? Provide them with incentives and the necessary support that large companies and foreign products enjoy quite easily.
I fully support HB5682, not because its author is someone close to my heart but because its advocacy is something close to my heart. I have dedicated my life — professionally and personally — towards the advancement of Filipino entrepreneurs. They have always been the silent cog in the growth of our economy. They are the ones who wake up early in the morning to prepare their goods and services. They are the ones who barely sleep as they work hard to provide consumers with the best products and services.