The country’s Micro, Small to Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has always been described as the lifeblood of the country’s business landscape that largely supports and spurs economic development and helps generate wide-scale employment.
As of May 2019, 99.56 percent of business establishments in the country were MSMEs. From around 900,000 in 2017, it further grew to 1.42 million, 90 percent are essentially microenterprises with total assets of below P3 million and with less than 10 employees. Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed that about seven out of every 10 employed Filipinos work in an MSME-owned business.
The DTI estimated that in 2018, MSMEs were responsible for contributing 40 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while providing 5.7 million jobs or 63.2 percent to the country’s workforce.
Recognizing the MSME sector’s invaluable contributions to the economy and employment, the DTI launched the “Go Lokal” program, a free-market access platform for MSMEs supported by select retail partners.
The program was envisioned to benefit and improve the country’s economy, support homegrown entrepreneurs, generate more jobs, and encourage more Filipinos to go into business. “Go Lokal” was also seen to provide consumers with world-class but locally sourced products.
“Go Lokal” hopes to inspire entrepreneurs to level up their game by producing outstanding products that are made locally but can meet international standards and attract a global market. The program is also positioned as a platform where emerging suppliers and new products with high market potential can be discovered. This excellent marketing avenue is provided for free by the DTI and its retail partners for MSME incubation, marketing and branding.
A big blow dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic
All these rosy images changed when the COVID-19 pandemic reached local shores, and the hardest-hit were the MSMEs, many of whom were forced to stop operations to stave off further losses. In the second quarter of 2020 or about four months since the community quarantines or lockdowns were implemented, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) sank by 16.9 percent, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in November 2020.
To help MSMEs recover from the effects of this debilitating global pandemic, the DTI launched a national advocacy campaign called “Buy Local, Go Lokal” to help inspire optimism and confidence among local businesses.
“Buy Local, Go Lokal” is a call for Filipinos to patronize local brands and help stimulate demand for homegrown manufactured goods and fresh produce, save jobs, and help the economy cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thus, the Filipino consumer has a critical role in the Buy Local, Go Lokal campaign and is called a “BUYani,” or one who buys locally made products and supports small Filipino entrepreneurs.
The campaign’s objectives were further trumpeted through advertising in various mediums such as print and digital ads in broadsheet newspapers and digital platforms such as social media, e-commerce, and corporate websites.
The “Buy Local, Go Lokal” campaign’s supporters include: Major TV and radio broadcasting networks like CNN Philippines, ANC, Cignal TV, DZMM, GMA, and TV5 which aired the 30-second Buy Local, Go Lokal TV commercial for free; and the Filipino International Franchise Association (FIFA) which provided free ad space in its digital magazine, FranchisingPH (franchisingph.com).
The campaign also gave birth to strategic partnerships with retailers, manufacturers, local government units (LGUs), including government agencies and their regional counterparts and industry associations.
Through the “Go Lokal” program’s established network with retailers and mall owners, the campaign was able to gather support from the program’s retail partners in terms of promotion and adoption of the campaign seals as part of their in-store signages and digital banner ads.
Among the first tier of retail partners are Robinsons Supermarket, Marketplace, and Shopwise. Ayala Malls (Glorietta and Ayala Cebu Center), and SM Malls.
Through the invitation of the DTI-Consumer Protection Group, Nutri-Asia Inc., one of the front- runners in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, has shown support to the “Buy Local, Go Lokal” campaign by adopting the campaign seals in its marketing collaterals for social media promotion and its online stores in Lazada and Shopee.
On the other hand, the Cebu Provincial Board headed by Vice Governor Hilario Davide III has extended its support to the “Buy Local, Go Lokal” campaign through Sanggunian Lalawigan Resolution No. 1581-2020 calling for aggressive information dissemination and implementation of the campaign.
Another resolution was issued by the Cebu Provincial Board strongly appealing to the public to support and patronize Cebuano products, resources, and businesses.
The awareness building and spreading of information about the campaign continues in order to generate more support from partners nationwide.
Also, in the pipeline is to expand the coverage of the program to include other industries such as the hospitality, movie, and music industries.
These were also among the many industries gravely affected by the pandemic because of restrictions on domestic travel and mass gatherings such as in movie theaters and concerts, thereby affecting revenue generation and employment.
The Bagsakan Special Project
Another project that bolsters the Buy Local, Go Lokal initiative is the “Bagsakan Special Project” of the DTI-Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion. In lieu of the National Food Fair that was cancelled last March 2020 as the government declared a state of public health emergency, the Bagsakan Special Project was launched to support the MSMEs affected by the ongoing pandemic, initially the Guimaras mango growers and other fruit growers.
The DTI-BDTP, in coordination with the DTI regional and provincial offices, assisted MSMEs, local farmers, fruit growers and cooperatives by providing the Bagsakan as a venue where they can sell their fresh produce and both food and non-food products to more consumers who did not wish to go to supermarkets, groceries and palengkes for fear of contracting the virus.
What started as a one-day Bagsakan event that featured Guimaras mangoes and fresh fruits from Mindanao evolved into an expanded marketing project with an even greater selection of products that were sold to consumers while observing strict health protocols and social distancing.
With strong support from DTI officials, DTI offices, and MSMEs, the Bagsakan became a weekend-selling activity in partnership with malls and commercial venues which provided free retai spaces. These Bagsakan events instantly became a big hit among shoppers.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic in 2020, the BDTP has mounted 29 Bagsakan selling events which generated Php 18.73 million in total sales for 200 MSMEs, fruit growers, farmers’ and social cooperatives from 27 provinces.
The Bagsakan project culminated in a “Christmas Grand Fest” at the Festival Mall in Muntinlupa City, attended by DTI, BDTP, Muntinlupa City officials, and Festival Mall executives, and highlighted by the awarding of the Bagsakan Special Project’s top 10 sellers.
The DTI-BDTP is also fast-tracking efforts to promote the digital transformation of MSMEs. Before 2020 ended, the National Trade Fair (NTF) Digital Mall was launched. Powered by UnionBank (UB) GlobalLinker, it is a permanent digital store featuring more than 2000 products of 223 MSMEs from the country’s 17 regions.
On sale are processed food and beverages, gifts and souvenir items, home décor, wearables, fashion accessories ad health and wellness products. To see the offerings of the NTF Digital Mall, visit https://ntfdigimall.linker.store/.
The DTI’s support for MSMEs will continue and become stronger to show that the government truly cares for the MSMEs and will do everything to give them a stronger boost for the future while riding the wave of this pandemic.