17 February 2023
The Joint Senate Committees on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship on Thursday tackled Senate Bill numbers 97, 536, 583, 782, 1041, and 1441, which all seek to strengthen and promote social enterprises as a poverty reduction strategy.
Senator Edgardo Angara, who led the panel discussion, said institutionalizing government support for social enterprises could help reduce the number of Filipinos living below the poverty line.
“These bills are (in) line with the efforts to support our local industries, level up exports, create jobs and ultimately make our economy more vibrant and competitive with the rest of the world. This is the spirit of Tatak Pinoy,” Angara said in a statement.
The Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Coalition, lobbying for the passage of the bills, said the proposed measures would ensure the immediate economic recovery of the poorest and marginalized communities from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe that the PRESENT bill is the embodiment and concrete investment of government to reduce poverty on a grand scale, accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and build back fairer post-COVID-19,”PRESENT Coalition Convener and Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia President Dr. Marie Lisa Dacanay said in a statement.
Dacanay said the PRESENT bill would enable the creation and strengthening of social enterprises whose primary purpose is to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable communities while promoting sustainable, climate-friendly, and socially responsible products.
It will also create programs that will ensure the long-term sustainability of social enterprises and immediate recovery after a disaster.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were around 164,000 social enterprises, or more than 15% of all businesses in the country, according to a study by the Philippine Social Enterprise Network and the British Council.
Social enterprises come in the form of cooperatives, agricultural associations, microfinance institutions, and foundations, among others.
In 2016 alone, they contributed Php 1.15 billion in value to the country.
However, many social enterprises faced challenges and had to shut down during the lockdowns, cutting short the benefits they bring to the communities they serve.
“We need an economy that works for all, especially during crises and pandemics. The proposed legislationseeks to assure social enterprises of government’s support such as development grants and comprehensive insurance systems,” Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Erika Geronimo said.
In 2020, a study by the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia, supported by Oxfam Pilipinas, showed that 55% of social enterprises experienced major downturns, 41% experienced some setbacks, and only 4% reported any positive impact during the pandemic.
“We must recognize that despite the benefits provided by social enterprises to the communities they serve, they still face many challenges and will continue to do so without enabling government support.,” Geronimo added.
The government agencies that expressed their support for the proposed PRESENT Act during the senate hearing are the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, the Insurance Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Cooperative Development Authority, the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Philippine National Oil Company.
The PRESENT Coalition is a network of civil society organizations, social entrepreneurs and resource institutions, academe, and advocates that work together to push for the enactment of a social enterprise and inclusive business policies in the Philippines. Oxfam Pilipinas supports it through the Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia (GRAISEA) Program.
Policy Advocacy and Communications Manager, Oxfam Pilipinas