FINANCIAL assistance and networking support should be extended to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector because it is important in the economic development of the countryside, new Trade Secretary Jesli Lapus said Saturday.

Lapus said that these are some of the things he will push for under his stint as trade secretary. Lapus replaced former DTI Secretary Peter Favilla, who is now a monetary board member of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

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“The MSME sector is a key shaper in the economic growth,” said Lapus during the meeting and induction of officers of the Filipino Cebuano Business Club, Inc. (FCBI) at the Sacred Heart Center last Saturday.

According to a recent report presented to the World Bank by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), about 99.7 percent of business enterprises in the country are MSMEs.

The micro category, with assets of not more than P3 million pesos, is at 92 percent; small category, with assets from P3 million up to P15 million, is at 7.3 percent; and the medium category with assets from P15 million to P100 million, is at 0.4 percent.

Large enterprises with assets of P100 million and higher comprise only 0.3 percent of enterprises, according to the report.

The report also said that MSMEs provide 70 percent of the labor force in the country, noting that the sector is more dependent on labor rather than capital.

“With the major contribution of MSMEs in economic development, more financial assistance should be extended to further the sector’s growth. This would not only help the sector produce the right and high-quality products but also open up opportunities for those who want to join the sector,” Lapus told reporters.

Lapus said that aside from financial assistance, networking support of MSMEs should also be pushed.

“This doesn’t only refer to the government and financial institutions but also the suppliers and the right market,” he said.

He said “total area development” should be strengthened to help all key players in the business grow. This, he said, includes the company, supplier, local government units and cooperatives.

The secretary also said that members of the sector should also be aware of existing programs and activities of the DTI.

“We have good laws to help these entrepreneurs and they should be aware of it so that it will be fully-implemented and everyone will benefit from it,” he said.

Lapus plans to visit the different regional offices of the department to check on their programs and activities.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who also attended the event, announced the allocation of a 2,000 square-meter lot for the MSME incubators facility in the South Road Properties (SRP). He said the facility can help provide a level playing field between large enterprises and MSMEs.

FBCI president Rey Calooy thanked the mayor for the project, saying it will be the first of its kind in the country. Calooy said MSMEs have a bright prospect because President Arroyo signed into law Republic Act (RA) 9501 or the Magna Carta for Small Enterprise and RA 9178 or the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise Law.

Calooy said a credit facility program of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas called Credit Surety Fund program is being set up. He said the facility allows MSMEs that are members of cooperatives to borrow from banks without collateral.