By Armando Fenequito Jr.
DAVAO CITY – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has created a special team that will help people access available financing or grants from the government.
MinDA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the initiative is part of the agency’s preparation for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) recovery Program and a support program for the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program” (BPBPP) of Senator Christopher Lawrence Go.
He said the program will be known as Assistance in Loan Access for Livelihood and Agriculture Industries (ALALAI) which will provide free facilitation services to farmers, fisherfolk, and women who would like to start small industries.
Piñol said MinDA’s ALALAI Special Team will determine and identify the various government loaning, emergency assistance, and grants program per agency as well as undertake an information drive both through the mainstream media and social media and face to face interaction to inform the public of the loan and assistance programs.
“It will also assist prospective applicants in the preparation of the feasibility and financial studies and other loan documents and link up prospective loan and grants beneficiaries with the banks or agencies with lending or financial assistance programs,” he said.
Piñol also said that a separate team will later be formed to closely monitor and supervise the implementation of the projects funded under the ALALAI Program.
He said that billions of pesos in government assistance and loan funds for livelihood and other economic activities are virtually gathering molds in bank vaults.
“There are two main reasons why these funds are not fully utilized. One is most people do not know about the programs, and even if they know there are such programs, the voluminous documentary requirements are so tough that the ordinary farmer and fisherman would rather go to the 5-6 lender or the “bumbay” (Indian) to borrow money,” he said.
Piñol said among the government assistance program which he said were not fully utilized are the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) of the Department of Labor (DOLE) livelihood assistance.
He said that ACEF which is collected by the government from the importation of agricultural products offers a P1 million loan to individuals and P5 million to cooperatives and associations involved in agriculture and fisheries at a very low interest rate of two percent.
The OWWA offers livelihood assistance for returning OFWs so they can settle down for good and most of the funds are given as grants.
He said that the Department of Agriculture and its attached agencies, like the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), the Department of Trade and Industry, and even the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) have funds both for individual farmers and fishermen and local government units with very low access rates.