By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY– The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged the financial and operational systems of micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Central Visayas, with many owners rethinking their strategies on how to navigate in the new normal.
To help these business owners deal with possible requirements under a new normal, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has extended P1.2-M worth of loans to 41 micro and small enterprisers (MSEs) in Negros Oriental under its “Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso” (P3) Program.
DTI-Negros Oriental Provincial Director Nimfa Virtucio bared that there were 149 MSEs in the province that applied for a loan under the P3 Program. And there are 108 more MSEs currently awaiting approval of their loan applications with an accumulated amount of P2.8 million.
Virtucio explained that P3 was DTI’s loan facility for MSEs with business assets not exceeding P15 million. These business owners can borrow from a minimum amount of P10,000 to a maximum of P500,000 which could be used for the development of their existing businesses.
According to Virtucio, the government has allocated P1 billion for the P3 program, which was part of the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program of DTI which assists the SMEs to recover from economic losses due to the pandemic.
The terms of payments for the loans is from 24 to 26 months with a grace period of six months, Virtucio said during the “Straight from the Source” press briefing Thursday hosted by the Philippine Infromation Agency (PIA) in Negros Oriental.
In Cebu, Smarttieshirt Apparel proprietor and chief finance officer Theresa Mae Conson said that COVID-19 crisis was a game changer for the business. Her husband Marvin Conson started the business in 2015 as an eCommerce platform for custom designed shirts.
Conson said that Smartieshirt Apparel began producing cloth facemasks as early as February this year and later, as the virus spread, personal protective equipment (PPE). Producing PPE gear and facemasks was far different from what they did before COVID-19, which was producing sports jerseys, fun run shirts, bags and caps.
“When we finally got the formula to deliver bulk orders in sportswear, COVID19 happened bringing an entirely different need,” Conson added.
She narrated how their company’s production set up drastically shifted in March as the number of COVID positive cases in Cebu increased, and N88 disposable facemasks became scarce. The company now produces 15,000 cloth facemasks per day and 3,000 PPE suits per week.
According to her, they did not have a hard time adjusting as they had the necessary machines and their operators were experienced in producing apparels and garments.
Conson added that she was fortunate that the company had a month of preparation before the lockdown, and despite its customers not paying on time, they were able to negotiate with suppliers that enabled them to roll their inventory.
To surmount financial challenges, the company approached the DTI to get an endorsement to avail of a loan facility from the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp).
DTI-7 said that Theresa Mae Conson was a graduate of its Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprise (KMME) program.
With KMME, her real-life experiences as an entrepreneur were enhanced by learnings on business management which enabled her to sustain her enterprises amidst the challenges of the pandemic and New Normal conditions.
For small entrepreneurs with a similar passion for business, DTI is open to receiving their applications to join the first batch of the KMME – Online Program.
Currently, the company divides its time between finishing pending projects and producing facemasks and PPE suits. Conson went on that they tap distributors around the area to sell their masks and PPE suits.
Conson said that their existing clients which are mostly business process outsourcing (BPO) firms and the manufacturing companies also help them a lot especially that facemasks and PPEs are the new normal. “We are expecting we will be manufacturing them for at least a year,” she said.