Microfinance group ready for integration

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Sunday, May 4, 2014


SAN PABLO CITY -- The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institution (Card-MRI) is ready for full economic integration by 2015 as agreed by member states of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean).

This was revealed by Card-MRI founder and managing director Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip during the 1st Lakbay Aral for Media in San Pablo City, Laguna on Wednesday.

In 1986, along with Dolores Torres and Lorenza Bañez, Alip founded Card to assist landless rural women working in coconut plantations of Laguna.

With a startup capital of P20 and a borrowed typewriter used for typing proposals to funding institutions, the group as non-government organization (NGO) was able to start their operations in microfinance business.

After 26 years of operation, Card has employed 8,000 staff and now serving 2.4 million clients in the country.

"One of our preparations is to help our clients to be more competitive towards Asean integration," Alip said in an interview in a lunch meeting with Card MRI Executive Committee members and media participants.

He said as a microfinance institution, their services are not limited only in providing loan assistance to members but equipped them with different trainings.

Their clients (all women) are trained to be empowered and good entrepreneurs.

"Bilang isang kasapi ng Card, ikino-konsidera ko po ang aking sarili na ako ay isang indibiduwal na may kapangyarihan sapagkat marami akong natutunan sa aming mga pagsasanay (As a member, I considered myself as empowered individual because I've learned a lot from the trainings)," Rosa Roxas said in an interview after their center meeting last Wednesday in Barangay Masaya, Bay, Laguna.

"Dati, mahiyain kasi akong tao ngunit ngayon, dahil sa CARD, marunong na akong makisalamuha sa ibat-ibang tao dito sa aming lugar (Before, I was a shy person but now, because of CARD, I can deal with different people here in our place)," she added.

Roxas, a former Card center chief in Barangay Masaya, said that aside from trainings, her children availed the scholarship program of Card.

Card MRI has also developed different innovations, one of which is cellphone apps where members could easily encode weekly deposits, payments, and withdrawals to be launched soon.

"Ang aming transakyon ay maging paperless na at madali na lang ang proseso (Our transaction will become paperless and the process would be easier for us)," she said, adding that their members are excited to learn the system.

As a successful microfinance institution, Card MRI is now helping other microfinance and banking institutions in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.

"We help other banks in terms of technology," Alip said.

He added that they are now sending well-trained staff to all partner countries to teach them the methodology of Card MRI in microfinancing operations.

He said from microfinance, Card MRI has now three banks in the country. They are Card Bank, Rizal Rural Bank, and CARD SME Bank.

Other than banks, they have also Card Mutual Benefit Association Inc., Card MRI Development Institute (soon to be a school in microfinance courses), Card MRI Information Technology Inc., BotiCARD (selling affordable medicines and giving free medical missions to clients), and Card Leasing and Finance Corporation.

All institutions, according to Alip, is now aiming at different products and services to prepare for the 2015 Asean integration.

"Of course, we have to maintain our mission to help the poor because our business here is poverty eradication," Alip concluded.

Asean was established on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei, Myanmar (then Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined later, and Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea are observers.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 05, 2014.

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