DTI: 75% of Bicol MSMEs back on their feet amid health crisis

By Mar Serrano

LEGAZPI CITY – Thousands of enterprises in Bicol affected by the lockdown due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic are slowly recovering, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Bicol said.

In an interview, DTI regional director Rodrigo Aguilar said close to 60,000 or 75 percent of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the region are “back on their feet” after the quarantine restrictions were eased allowing them to operate though on a limited capacity.

“When the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) was downgraded to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), these enterprises were allowed to operate on condition that they strictly comply with the health quarantine standards set by the government,” Aguilar said.

These health standards include limiting mass gatherings, wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and other health protocols, he said.

To cushion the economic impact of Covid to MSMEs, the DTI, through the Small Business Corp. Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing (SB ERF), has earmarked PHP1-billion financing assistance.

Aguilar said DTI, through the SB ERF grants loan aid to firms for additional capital in the amount ranging from PHP20,000 to PHP500,000.

He said some PHP200 million worth of loan assistance for close to 2,000 MSME loan applicants is being processed.

Citing an agency study, Aguilar said around PHP5.4 billion in revenue losses were reported by various enterprises due to the temporary closure when the region was placed under ECQ to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The study indicates that topping the list of provinces with revenue losses due to the temporarily closure of businesses were Camarines Sur with PHP2.6 billion; Albay, PHP1.1 billion; Catanduanes, PHP625 million; Sorsogon, PHP464 million; Masbate, PHP389 million; and Camarines Norte with PHP148-million losses.

Aguilar added the ECQ for the period March 16 to April 30 this year resulted in the closure of 61,522 business establishments, or 61 percent of the 75,000 registered enterprises in Bicol.

The two months’ lockdown sent 139,321 workers temporarily out of work, he said.

Only 14,000 vital essential business establishments involved in the distribution of power, water, food production and distribution, banking, health services, were permitted to operate, he added.

Martin Reynoso, a member of the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said “hard-hit” businesses were those engaged in retailing such as garments, textile, food and restaurants, personal care, hotels, malls, resort and tourist destinations and private schools and universities.

Reynoso, real estate and leasing businessman, said mall sales were down by 50 percent while food and restaurants sales declined by 80 to 90 percent due to the lockdown.

Asked what interventions the government should undertake to help revive the industry, he cited giving tax holiday incentives by way of discounts and amnesty.

ACCI president Rosemarie Quinto Rey said the government and private sector should act as one in addressing the economic woes brought by Covid-19.

She said the government can provide additional capital in the form of loan grants and fast-track accounts payable due to private enterprises. (PNA)