Some of the country’s social entrepreneurs expressed support for the pending Social Enterprise Bill, which some lawmakers had pushed for five years ago as one way to help bring down poverty.
Among the bill’s potential effects would be giving social enterprises priority in the government’s procurement process, said Anya Lim, co-founder of Anthill Fabric Gallery, a company that markets fabrics hand-woven by indigenous people’s groups.
Social enterprises are generally revenue-generating businesses that address social problems as part of their core activities.
First introduced by Quezon City Fourth District Rep. Lorenzo Tañada in the 15th Congress in 2012, House Bill 6085 called for the creation of a Magna Carta for Social Enterprises that will promote this type of business as part of the poverty reduction program.
In addition, the Magna Carta vests rights and privileges on social enterprises and proposes “a Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship or PRESENT program” and the creation of a Social Enterprise Commission. Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV filed the Senate version of the bill in 2015.
During the Developmental Social Enterprise Awards (DSEA) roundtable discussion in Cebu last May 6, Lim pointed out that this hasn’t been passed into law.
“I think the concern there why the bill didn’t make it was that there was no clear definition and framework of what a social enterprise is,” said Lim.
The Philippines, according to the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia, has more than 30,000 social enterprises, majority of which are cooperatives or associations. The same study also said these social enterprises are seen to benefit 2.5 million poor Filipinos if support mechanisms are made available to them.
The social enterprise bill provides for incentives and benefits for such organizations, including access to capital, tax exemptions, marketing, research and systems development support, and the preferential right of social enterprises to government procurement. The bill also grants incentives to start-up social enterprises employing persons with disabilities.
Currently, ECOWEB Executive Director Regina S. Antequisa said, there is no social enterprise-specific legislation yet in the Philippines. ECOWEB, an Iligan-based social enterprise, has worked with farmers and women to produce natural fertilizers and pest repellents since 2006. The organization won the DSEA awards and the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation (BCY Foundation) in 2015, while Anthill was named as the top winner in 2016.
Anthill supports three communities in the country: the Mang Abel Ti Abra in North Luzon, the Daraghuyan Bukidnon Tribe in Mindanao, and the Handcrafters of Mary Enterprise (HOME) in Cebu. Through Anthill, these three communities have found a training ground and buyers for their handmade fabrics and dolls.
Antonio S. Yap, BYC Foundation chair, recommended that social entrepreneurship be included in the curriculum of business schools, as one of the ways to raise awareness among the youth.
Funding is also one of the key concerns of social entrepreneurs. In the end, however, Yap said it is passion of social entrepreneurs to support a cause that sustains them. But for ECOWEB, the government should listen.
“We need the government, but there’s also the need to awaken the government’s conscience and let them know about the important role of social enterprises in addressing poverty,” Antequisa said.