The promise of progress looms over the horizon for Filipino entrepreneurs and marginalized sectors as the current administration and its private-sector partners begin to enact plans to improve the state of the country.
This, at least, was the collective sentiment aired yesterday by the key officers of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Vice President Leni Robredo as BPI held “#PartnerForProgress,” an event that marks the bank’s 165th anniversary. Conducted at the bank’s head office in Makati, “#PartnerForProgress” saw the Vice President and the BPI officials outlining the various plans they have conceptualized in pursuit of national development. The event served as a venue for the aforementioned parties to air their optimism towards the current administration which, according to them, may have the capacity to further inspire entrepreneurship and address socioeconomic ails, partly responsible for financial challenges currently faced by numerous Filipinos.
Progress against poverty
Serving as the event’s guest of honor, Vice President Robredo, took the floor during the latter half of the program to discuss her office’s pursuit of poverty alleviation.
“Already, my office has held several consultation workshops with various members of civil society, citizens groups and the private sector so we can begin addressing our nation’s most stubborn problems on a strong note of cooperation,” VP Robredo said during her speech. “At the center of all this is our five-point anti-poverty framework which is defined by five distinct objectives.”
According to Robredo, the five-point framework consists of initiatives meant to ensure food security and adequate nutrition for financially challenged Filipino families, strengthen the bid for universal healthcare, bring equality and education to students, enhance rural development and ultimately empower the Filipino people. Robredo believes that in order to achieve this, it is necessary to pay close attention to specific groups in society, particularly “ang mga pamilyang nasa laylayan ng lipunan [the families on the fringes of society.]”
Support for entrepreneurs through loans, co-ops
During her speech, Vice President Robredo commended BPI’s ongoing efforts in philanthropy particularly through the BPI Bayanihan Para sa Inang Bayan (also known as BPI BAYAN) program, an initiative of the bank’s social development arm, BPI Foundation Inc.
Serving as a platform for the bank’s employees to volunteer in pursuit of various advocacies, BPI BAYAN currently involves more than 6,000 of the bank’s estimated 15,000 workforce. It has in the past taken on numerous projects geared towards environmental health, education and community development.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, BPI BAYAN, was reintroduced as BPI BAYAN 2.0. And in its new form, the program incorporates four modalities that cater to the different volunteer motivations of BPI’s employees.
“For example, one of the four modalities which is the BPI Social Innovation Lab (SoIL) is an experimentation for us,” said Faye Corcuero, the executive director of the BPI Foundation. “It’s probably the first such program done by a local bank wherein we take the skill sets and professional competencies of our own bankers and bring them to help us with some of the programs we do.”
This project is currently gearing to bring its first group to Negros Occidental. There they will live with and help farmer co-ops by preparing them to access the formal banking system.
“I think only 32 to 35 percent of Filipinos have access to the formal banking system,” said Cezar Consing, the president and chief executive officer of BPI.
Another recent project the foundation got involved with was the Make A Difference (MAD) Challenge. A competition launched last July, this sought to inspire BPI’s employees to plan projects that the foundation can pursue. Among the winning entries include a move to teach underprivileged kids the value of saving. With the entry of the current administration and its plans for economic reform, the bank’s key figures have expressed their bullishness towards Filipino business owners.
Getting down to business
Aside from enacting projects geared towards aiding the disadvantaged, BPI has also moved to encourage entrepreneurship. The BPI Family Ka-Negosyo Loan, with its flexible payment terms which are customized to fit the current profit flow, is equipped to aid the segment of small and medium enterprises. Such efforts currently go hand-in-hand with the thrust of the current administration which, according to Consing, “inspires entrepreneurship.”
Speaking before the press, Consing made mention of the socio-economic plans presented by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. According to him, the changes to be brought about by the said plans can help in better mobilizing local business owners. Listing down the potential changes, Consing mentioned the quicker issuance of licenses and shorter lines in the government office.
“All of these are necessary reforms,” he said. “That raises the baseline for everybody especially the poor sector of the economy because these are the people who have to spend so much of their time trying to sort these things out. Can you imagine if it frees up their time for production? We’re very excited for what this could mean for the economy.”
Angelo Cantera is a journalist who has been covering the lifestyle, travel and business-lifestyle beats for some of the country's major newspapers and magazines. He has worked for The Manila Times and has served as associate editor of asianTraveler Magazine. Also a lensman, he occasionally does photography for his own travel assignments.