Inching Forward

  • 1

This post has already been read 357 times!

Like a heavy-laden locomotive halted in its tracks by a diversion,  Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1’s economies are is slowly inching forward, freed last week by government regulators who switched the two regions status from Enhanced Community Quarantine to general restriction.

CAR and Region 1 communities having been educated, engaged and empowered  to adjust to the “new norm,” will eventually refashion resilient ways and means to jumpstart their economic enterprises, whether micro, small or medium, shackled by an unprecedented crisis resulting to lackluster market performance due to less consumer uptick.

Highlanders and lowlanders are well known for their resiliency in the midst of adversity and rebound from major crisis. They will find solutions to jumpstart their economic endeavors with entrepreneurial acumen, if not with perseverance and hard work.

Combined with such three characteristics long ingrained in the traits of highlanders and lowlanders as shaped in part by environmental realities will go long ways in absorbing the shock of economic slowdown of the two regions as well as the strengths to start all over again.

A large part of the whole economic system of the two regions is consumption-driven. That given, expect their economies to bounce back sooner than other markets.

In CAR, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) said the region incurred economic loss reaching 18.6 billion pesos. Economic down spill for Region 1 is still being assessed.

Nonetheless, both highlanders and lowlanders engaged in free enterprise will “bite the bullet” of their loss at this time and will engage to restart their paralyzed businesses.

It’s in this spirit of character the government recognizes, hence, has launched a series of programs designed to help business entrepreneurs absorb their loss but get back on their feet and re-ignite economic endeavors. Take a look at some of them.

The Philippine government has ordered a loan payment moratorium in the midst of coronavirus.

It mandates all lenders to grant a 30-day extension for all loan payments and it includes pawnshop loans and credit card dues as the country grapples with this pandemic.

In the case of micro and small enterprises operating for a year or more before March 2020, they can apply for loan (depending on their asset size) under the so-called “Covid-19 Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pagasenso Enterprise Rehabilitation Fund.”  For this matter, they can inquire with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD-CAR)  or  Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-CAR).

DTI-CAR also a program called “Livelihood Seeding Program/Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay,” for those interested in starting business in their respective barangays. This program carries a start-up monetary support in the amount ranging from Php 5,000 to Php 8,000 for applicants, aside from DTI-CAR helping them process their business papers for them to operate legally.

Another: The Department of Agriculture (DA-CAR) has a loan program called Expanded Program and Recovery (E-SURe), to help farmers during this crisis, without interest or collateral.

An amount of Php 137 million is directed to CAR by DA-Central Office to help the farmers. Under E-SURe aid, DA-CAR says around 60,000 farmers are expected to be given assistance.

Already, an amount of 52 million pesos was released to some 1,551 farmers, of which 38.7 million pesos to flower growers and 14 million pesos, to vegetable raisers.

The Land Bank of the Philippines is offering a new lending program to help small and medium enterprises recover from the impact of the coronavirus. It’s called Interim Rehabilitation Support to Cushion Unfavorably-Affected Enterprises by Covids-19, or I-RESCUE.

For business entrepreneurs affected by covid-19 and desiring to take out a low interest loan, they can consider the option of DTI-CAR’s financing arm, the Small Business Corporation, which launched a 1-billion pesos Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing Facility. This falls under “Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (Covid-19 P3ERF).

Business with asset size not more than 3 million pesos may borrow from 10,000 pesos to 200,000 pesos, while those with asset size of 10 million may borrow up to 500,000 pesos.

Interest rate of the above mentioned is 0.5 per cent per month, on a discounted basis and provides a grace period, until such time that the economic crisis has abated.

In Baguio City, for example, emergence of coronavirus has spurred the City Council to pursue put up of satellite markets in pinpointed barangays, to reduce influx of people at the city market and, particularly, bring goods closer to residents.

Such move will greatly enhance social distancing regulation which will become part of a new normal even if restrictions will be lifted and stalled businesses inch forward.

Damacio Pumal-e, a Benguet farmer who donated his produce of highland vegetables during the height of enhanced quarantine said the economic loss incurred by the times is “painful” to many but lessons are learned that part of the economic shield should focus on strengthening build-up of diverse food system for post covid-19 highland and lowland worlds.

Damacio is just one of the numerous farmers in CAR who unstintingly donated their products in designated points for pick-up by anybody to tide affected people during the crisis. And Pumal-e knew what he was talking about.

The farmers who donated their products knew what hunger pains can do when a crisis (coronavirus) threatens food security in every household and also cause significant vital food supply chains disruption, rendering dwellers in barangays vulnerable.

Said Damacio, “Coronavirus underlined three points which are the importance of innovation, vulnerability of thousands of people at the bottom of the pyramid and, thus, the need for more diversified, nutritious and resilient food systems.”

The wife of Damacio, Penelope, who often accompanied her husband in their pick-up truck whenever they donated their vegetable products summed up the feelings of the farmers who gave away their produce, when she said, “Narigat ti mabisenan, ti kastoy a didigra. Saan nga didyiay kaadu ti ited, ngem diay ayat nga panag-ited. (It’s not about how many or how large you give, but the good intention to give).”

Profoundly said.

Damacio and Ah Kong became friends twenty years ago. But in those years that passed, they seldom saw each other. Damacio, an architect by education, turned to agriculture, concentrated on farming; Ah concentrated work in government.

But when Ah took wind the past two weeks that a certain Damacio Pumal-e was donating vegetables, Ah tracked the person, suspecting he was the Gabino he knew twenty years ago. Ah was right.

Ah tracked him giving away vegetables to people somewhere in  Buyagan,  and Cruz, La Trinidad, Benguet, last week.

Damacio happens to be one of the most unique friends Ah ever has – and the oddest. Many readers say Ah is an odd guy. But no, Damacio is oddest.

While Damacio generosity is real and supreme, his other traits will make others weep in laughter. Maybe Damacio is just making these up but until now Ah is not really sure.

Damacio is a clever and venerable guy, who, when he should laugh, weeps instead. Relate to him a good story, break a bit of pleasant news to him and he will weep as if his wife, Penelope, broke his heart.

When his first son got married and Ah became one of the ninongs, Damacio cried into a flood of sorrow and joy, that the chair he sat on that time he cried shook with the intensity of his emotions.

It was a heartwarming spectacle, to witness such genial feeling in the bosom of age of an old friend, Damacio, to see those ancient reservoirs of sentiment occasionally stirred up with the pole of passing events that a father is witnessing his son to leave home and start a family.

That’s Damacio, irrepressible even in this days of covid-19 – and generous almost to a fault. That even if there’s no more of his vegetables to donate, he’s gladly willing to donate his trousers – to the consternation of his wife, Penelope.

As for Ah who learned much of life from Damacio, well, Ah would also like to see fountains of affection well from his slow-throbbing bosom – and weep, too, to the laughter of those around him.

So that when Ah gets toooo old and stooped, when vital current plays tardily and sadly through the shrunken conduits of his frame, when at time Ah begins to be weary of the sun, when May’s rain steal along his shadows, the Past will tell him he had loved yet, lost some. (Like Damacio losing his son).

Yet, let Ah cherish those that remain knowing him. Let him be interested in their and enjoyments and let the sunshine that beam from their open brows sink warmly onto him, as they all inch forward to economic resiliency and put this this pandemic behind them.