12 October 2020

     The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Socio-Economic Development Program – Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SEDP-MPC) in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) have implemented the Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project 2 (GWP2) since 2015. Through GWP2, the partner- institutions in the Bicol Region extended innovation support and assistance to improve the enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment (WEE). Priority provinces in the region are Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon, with a total of one hundred twenty-three (123) women micro-entrepreneurs (WMEs) enrolled in the project.

     On 28 February 2020, GAC representatives Mr. Stephane Duval, First Secretary for Development and Ms. Dale Abapo-Aranas, Senior Development Officer, Embassy of Canada – Manila, visited the region and monitored the status of the project implementation.

     Prior to the visit, Ms. Remegia Balucio, SEDP Executive Director led a meeting with the WEE Project Regional Technical Working Group (RTWG) and members from partner agencies at SEDCEN Building, Landco Business Park, Legazpi City. For the GWP2 implementation status report, Mr. Noel Percil, WEE Local Area Coordinator for Region V, highlighted that eighty-two (82) WMEs have leveled up: 54 WMEs from Level 1 (Enterprise Development – presently producing for the local market) to Level 2 (Market Expansion – presently producing for the domestic market/national), and 28 WMEs from Level 2 to Level 3 (Market Stability – products with potential for export). As the five-year project is about to end this 2020, the greatest challenge of the implementation is the project sustainability.

     Three (3) selected enrolled WMEs were monitored: Cozytops Pilinut Candy, Bongalon, Daraga, Albay; Lacsinto Ice Cream, Basud Polangui, Albay and HGQ Handicrafts, Topas Proper, Nabua, Camarines Sur. The establishment and current status of the firms, challenges being faced (supply of raw materials especially for pili products), the decline of tourist arrivals due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID), and future plans such as market expansion, acquisition of equipment (such as mold and twining machines) under the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (DOST-SETUP), tests and analyses in the Regional Standards and Testing Laboratory (DOST-RSTL) as needed in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard compliance, and product improvement and marketing with the assistance of DTI, DA and SEDP were discussed.

     Through engagement in GWP2, WMEs adopt good practices for business licensing and registration, product assessment, and packaging and labeling, develop market linkages and financial literacy, and take part in trade fairs, benchmarking activities and other capability trainings that will eventually contribute to significant increase in productivity and sales. (Dr. P.O. Lucena/Ms. D.M.A.B. Odavar, DOST V)