Lawmakers have filed a resolution seeking a P1.6-billion increase in the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assist and develop more micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Speaker for Trade and Industry Wes Gatchalian said they filed House Resolution 2228 to boost DTI’s capability to extend assistance to MSMEs, which play a crucial role in economic recovery.

Citing DTI figures, as of June 2021, Gatchalian said, 10 percent of MSMEs have already been forced to shut down permanently due to lack of sales or inability to cope with meager returns on investments.

“Our lengthy battle against the Covid-19 pandemic which  began in March 2020 has decimated our MSMEs and the stringent lockdown measures imposed to abate the spread of the virus has affected millions of jobs,” he said.

For 2022, the DTI and its attached agencies have been allocated P23.7 billion under the 2022 national budget. The lower chamber has already started the plenary deliberations of the proposed 2022 General Appropriations Act.

Gatchalian said DTI’s 2022 allocation is not enough to help the 1 million registered MSMEs, as well as the 4 million unregistered enterprises that have also been affected by the global health crisis.

“We need to increase the overall budget of the DTI for MSMEs. We need to prioritize the MSMEs amid this pandemic. DTI will play big role in jump-starting the MSMEs. We need to strengthen entrepreneurship in the country. Our government should be more aggressive in rolling out loans for MSMEs,” he said.

“This is indeed very disappointing because during the last State of the Nation Address of President Duterte, he recognized the vital role of MSMEs to economic activity, job creation, and poverty reduction,” the lawmaker said.

Other co-authors of the resolution are Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, Niota’s Rep. John Rey Tiangco and Quezon Rep. David Suarez.

In the resolution, the lawmakers claimed that there was an “immediate” need to provide further assistance for the upskilling and reskilling of MSMEs amid transition to digitalization in these new times.

“The resolution further asserts that the DTI, its attached agencies, and the Small Business Corporation [SB Corp.] may extend loans to registered and unregistered micro entrepreneurs ignored by the formal banking sector, give trainings for technology literacy, and provide a safe haven for MSMEs to afford them an opportunity to sustain an existing business or help them recover from the unending continuing difficulties brought about by the pandemic,” HR 2228 stated.

However, with the meager budget approved by the Department of Budget and Management  (DBM), the lawmakers said only a fraction of MSMEs will be served, contrary to the national government’s intention for inclusive recovery amid the worst crisis to affect our generation.

Of the P23.7 billion, only P6.6 billion is allocated to DTI, while the bulk of the budget is allocated to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority amounting to P13.6 billion.

The remaining budget is appropriated to other DTI attached agencies, including, the Board of Investments, Philippine Trade Training Center, Design Center of the Philippines, Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines, Cooperative Development Authority, Aurora Pacific and Economic Zone Authority and Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions and SB Corp.

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