From Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao, COVID-19 has crippled hundreds of thousands of microbusinesses. In the Philippines, they represent 90 percent of all registered businesses, and provide food on the table and jobs for the extreme poor.
To illustrate, the poor in our country are considered to be those who live on about P350 a day. Then there is the subsistence level, where someone only has as much food and money in order to stay alive, with P240 a day. Below that threshold, we find the extreme poor who get by with P60 for every single day.
Realizing the impossible situation they are in, the microfinance industry declared a moratorium on loans for its client beneficiaries. All microfinance institutions under the umbrella of the Microfinance Council of the Philippines (MCPI) and the Alliance of Philippine Partners in Enterprise Development (APPEND) said there would be no loan payment collections, and no penalties or fines levied on their member microentrepreneurs until the end of the community quarantine period or April 12, 2020. This moratorium offered a most welcome relief to the 9 million households being catered by MCPI and APPEND member institutions.
“As an industry, we acknowledge that the 9 million microentrepreneurs of our collective agencies will face liquidity problems and difficulty recovering losses should the COVID-19 threat persist. We pray the loan moratorium will in some way ease their burdens,” said MCPI Chairperson Eduardo Jimenez and APPEND President Dr. Virginia Juan.
“While we all are at risk in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, our microfinance clients are even more vulnerable. Their micro businesses are shuttered, their income sure to suffer, even their children’s education have come to a halt with little or no access to online education,” said Jimenez, who also serves as president of Kabalikat para sa Maunlad na Buhay (KMBI).
Across the country, microbusiness owners are indeed grateful, and try to stay optimistic even in this challenging time. Meet 3 women, all clients of KMBI, who are doing their best to stay strong for their families, their workers and their communities.
Herbal Medicine Business Hit by COVID-19 Outbreak
For the last 4 years, Teresita Queral of Quezon City has been supporting her family with her own herbal medicine formulation which she dubbed the Power Herb Solution. With the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, she had no choice but to halt operations.
“Malaking tulong sa amin ngayon yung walang hulog dahil imbis na pang-hulog namin, pinapambili nalang ng mga kailangan sa bahay at nakakabawas sa iisipin namin lalo na ngayon na mahirap talaga humanap ng pagkakakitaan (The loan moratorium is a great help to us. Instead of using our cash to pay our loan, we can use it to buy the things we need. It’s one less thing to worry about, especially now that it’s hard to find ways to earn money),” explained Queral.
She is also thankful that her barangay stepped up and provides them much-needed assistance. Despite their lack of income, Queral’s family is staying home save for her daughter, a caregiver who continues to aid her patient based in Fairview.
Internet Café Goes Offline
The Enhanced Community Quarantine went in effect in Cebu City on March 16, leaving Agnes Olasiman no choice but to close her 15-year old internet café business. Her child with a heart condition who requires constant medical care weighs heavily on her mind.
Olasiman shared: “Pinakamalaking challenge po talaga is yung financial aspect, yung gamot po at pagkain. Nagtry po kami magbukas ng carinderia para po kahit papano may pagkukunan pa rin ng income pero mahina rin kasi takot lumabas yung mga tao. Hindi ito nagtagal kaya sumubok naman kami magsari-sari store pero mahina pa rin ang benta. (Our biggest challenge is the financial aspect, for medicines and for food. We tried to open an eatery to have a steady source of income but people are staying home so we are not doing so well. We also tried to open a small convenience store but sales are not doing well too.)”
Nata de Coco Producer Turns to Liquor
Of the 3, Lydia Malot of Davao City can be considered the most senior with her 26-year old company. The nata de coco producer counts many big firms as her clients, including DOLE and Del Monte.
Malot said the quarantine situation, enforced in Davao City on March 15, has impacted her business. “Hindi makalabas yung mga delivery namin kaya stop operation talaga. Sa ngayon ginagawa lang namin yung mother liquor ng aming product para kung sakali man na matapos yung pandemic na ito, meron pa rin kaming produce, pero sa ngayon malaki talaga yung nalugi. (Our delivery trucks cannot go out so we had to stop operation. What we are doing now is the mother liquor for our product so when the pandemic ends, we can still produce but in the meantime, we have lost a lot of money.)”
“Sa ngayon malaking tulong para sa akin yung pag suspend ng hulog dahil pwede kong magamit sa pang araw araw na pangangailangan namin yung pera lalo na may mga trabahante din akong naka stay in sa bahay (Right now, the loan moratorium is a great help so I can use the cash we have for daily expenses, and that includes providing for the workers staying with us),” explained Malot.
When the situation improves and life returns to normal, Malot is looking to approach her microfinance partner, KMBI, for an emergency loan or start-up loan. COVID-19 may have put a halt on global economies but Malot is unfazed. “Para makapag umpisa ulit para sa negosyo at sa pamilya namin (So we can start anew for our business, for the sake of our families.),” Malot expressed.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.