OF TREES AND FOREST

Former Senate President Manny Villar

I have said it before and I will say it again — entrepreneurs will lead our country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the recently concluded Villar SIPAG’s 10th OFW & Family Summit, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez reported that business registration increased to over two million as of November this year, already exceeding the 1.5 million pre-pandemic registration level in 2019. The good Secretary attributed this tremendous growth in business registrations to more Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) starting to go into business.

This was also confirmed by two other reports. Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Business Name Registration (BNR) Division revealed a registration growth rate of 91 percent in 2020 versus the 44 percent increase in 2019. A survey conducted by financial literacy advocacy group The Global Filipino Investors (TGFI) also showed that 64 percent of employed people tried to launch a new business while staying in their current jobs.

This only proves that there is always a positive side to all the hardships we have been experiencing because of the pandemic. Lives were lost, businesses crumbled, growth squandered, and many jobs vanished. But from the rubbles we found hope. Filipinos are refusing to give up and OFWs are choosing hope instead of despair. They are the people fueling this incredible rise in entrepreneurship.

Sec. Lopez also noted that this increase in entrepreneurial activities is fueled by online and e-commerce ventures as those who lost their jobs or businesses and existing enterprises began shifting their brick and mortar stores to online platforms.

I thank Sec. Lopez for joining our OFW Summit and commend him for always supporting entrepreneurship. I believe that given all that we have faced during this pandemic, Sec. Lopez has done a magnificent job as Secretary of DTI. I also commend government for encouraging entrepreneurship that led to this boom.

But we need to do more. There are still many Filipinos who are unemployed. The recent figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the number of unemployed Filipinos rose to 4.25 million from 3.88 million in August 2021 resulting to an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. That percentage translates to 370,000 Filipinos who will have a hard time putting food on the table of their families. Government needs to sustain its program of encouraging entrepreneurs by providing easy access to financing to prospective entrepreneurs, improving the infrastructure for online commerce, ensuring that the COVID-19 virus is in check and avoiding the use of lockdowns as a pandemic response.

I have said it before and I will say it again—lockdowns have not been shown to slow down the virus and impacts our people’s livelihood negatively.

So even as we are currently at Alert Level 2, and with economic activities buzzing again, both government and the public need to make sure that this situation can be sustained. Businesses have reopened and consumers are back. I am almost happy to see traffic congestion back in the Metro because it signifies increased mobility. Well, not really but that’s a topic for another column. But the point is you now feel some semblance of normalcy—parents are able to bring their kids out after almost two years in hibernation, friends rekindling relations over a cup of coffee, and families are now able to go out to parks, malls and restaurants.

The pandemic is not over yet. We know that, of course. We should continue to observe health protocols and we should not let our guards down. But there is something liberating to being able to do the small and simple things again. A child running around the park giggling and laughing, a group of lolos and lolas chatting by the bench are happy sights. I am hoping we can continue this even with a new variant looming.

This is our road to recovery. And entrepreneurs are at the trenches of this effort to recoup our economic gains and reclaim our way of life.