The COVID-19 global pandemic is sorely testing our people’s resolve to create a better life for themselves.
This isn’t surprising as the pandemic has shaken even the world’s strongest economies. That’s why we at the national government have made it our top priority to intensify assistance to local businesses to ensure income and guarantee employment.
In the wake of the pandemic-related lockdowns, many local businesses have halted operations and caused Filipinos to lose their livelihoods. The country’s highest unemployment rate of 17.7 percent was in April 2020, which was the height of the lockdowns. While recent data shows unemployment has slowly gone down to 8.7 percent in October 2020, around 3.8 million Filipinos are still without jobs. Meanwhile, many of us are still looking for additional opportunities to sustain our day-to-day needs. (Source: October 2020 PSA Labor Force Survey, released December 2020).
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), being one among the many government agencies working to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the country, is mandated to provide support services and an enabling environment for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to be able to grow and become sustainable and competitive in the institutional, national, regional, and global markets. This has become more urgent with the present pandemic affecting the business and trade both here and globally.
So how do we help businesses overcome the challenges of the “New Normal” amid the pandemic? Limited movements have forced businesses to adopt new means to continue operating. We have observed it was not easy, even for large-scale industries, to roll out new business strategies, like setting up an online payment system or e-commerce channels. So imagine how much more challenging it is for MSMEs? We saw that further support is the key to enable our MSMEs and ensure their capacity to operate under the “New Normal.”
Even before the pandemic, the DTI, through its Go Lokal! program, has been assisting MSMEs through our various initiatives to promote local businesses. Our Go Lokal! program gave MSMEs wider access to the domestic and foreign markets by allowing them to display their products in high foot-traffic areas like shopping malls and airports.
The pandemic changed everything and made it necessary for us to further address the needs of local businesses and go even beyond. That’s why we have been aiding our MSME partners in finding new ways to access the market. To complement this, we also launched the “Buy Local, Go Lokal!” advocacy campaign to intensify the awareness and preference of the local market to purchase Filipino-made products.
For example, MAJ Sweets Shoppe Phils., Inc. had nowhere to sell their pastillas since retailers had also stopped operations, forcing it to temporarily close operations and production for three months. This meant they were stuck with inventory even as production halted. Thankfully, as a DTI Go Lokal! partner since 2018, they had been introduced to WaltermartSupermarket before the pandemic. This was the only sales outlet they had during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
If not for the opportunity to sell at Waltermart, General Manager Lorie Carlos told us that a thousand packs of pastillas in stock would have expired. Go Lokal! was indeed instrumental in ensuring their survival during the lockdown and expansion post lockdown as they developed online partnerships with Lazada, Shopee, Shopinas, and UnionbankGlobalLinker.
In 2020, Go Lokal! had stepped up its digitalization efforts and pursued alternative market access for MSMEs like MAJ’s through strategic partnerships with different e-commerce platforms to help MSMEs recover from the effects of the pandemic. To date, Go Lokal! has onboarded 118 merchants by forging partnerships with e-commerce marketplaces such as Carousell, Lazmall, Shopee Mall, Shopinas, and UnionbankGlobalLinker.
With the online presence of Go Lokal! merchants in these digital platforms, Filipino consumers can now easily access homegrown products while at the same time helping the economy through their patronage of small and local businesses.
Moreover, the DTI’s Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion collaborated with the DTI Regional and Provincial offices to launch a series of BAGSAKAN events to make local products accessible to more consumers. Held at the DTI parking lot and various malls, BAGSAKAN allowed MSMEs, fruit growers, farmers, and cooperatives to efficiently reach consumers. This creative and strategic project generated total sales of P18.73 million for 200 MSMEs last year.
Apart from quantifiable success through sales, intensified awareness in the local market boosted the recognition of certain local brands and products as “preferred goods” over popular imported brands. One can now choose a homegrown bottle of Lick the Spoon’s Dulce de Leche spread over a foreign brand. Likewise, we now have more access to many locally grown and harvested coffee beans like Hineleban Foundation, Inc. that are at par with or even better than foreign brands.
But we need to point out that “Buy Local, Go Lokal” isn’t just another catchy phrase to get your attention. This campaign will become a vital component in instilling the value of prioritizing local products among Filipino consumers. This awareness campaign also captures the essence of the “Bayanihan” spirit of Filipinos that will generate a measurable impact on the local economy.
That’s why every time we support a local business, we bring hope to entrepreneurs who are on the brink of giving up. Lorie of MAJ Sweets Shoppe banked on the support of family, friends and strangers in purchasing their products so that she could continue striving to keep her business afloat. As we continue to live safely in this “new normal,” we should prioritize buying from local businesses as much as we can so that we can create a “better normal” where many of our Filipino products and services can give our people employment and income.
When you press “Add to Cart” or patronize a local service, always remember that your support of Filipino brands can make an impactful contribution to our country’s recovering economy. Every little bit helps.