Search for sustainable businesses in communities

FORMER Environment secretary Gina Lopez is inviting Cebu-based organizations to join a nationwide competition that aims to help communities launch their own sustainable businesses.

The project called the “The Quest For Love” aims to give an opportunity for social enterprises, cooperatives, people’s associations, foundations, non-government organizations and other socially-oriented organizations in the country to transform marginalized communities into viable localized economic zones such as resource- based agro-forestry, fisheries, or eco-tourism sites and the like.

Lopez, founder and chairman of the Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies (ILOVE) Foundation, said the competition will provide financial and technical support to eight deserving organizations.

The chosen eight will get a P100,000 cash grant, direct access to government support programs, one-on-one mentorship, media exposure, on-the-ground field support, access to a wide network of subject-matter exposure, and access to possible investors.

The organizations will also be featured as a special segment on Lopez’s “G Diaries” on ABS-CBN this June so Filipinos could watch the transformation of these communities.

Seven government agencies have signed up to partner with the ILOVE Foundation to provide the technical and financial support to the top eight organizations. These are the Department of National Defense, Department of Tourism, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Social Welfare Development, Department of Trade and Industry and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

“We want to help more communities come out of poverty,” she said.

Sixteen organizations will initially be chosen as semi-finalists. After the bootcamps, the assessors will chose the best eight.

Lopez, who is a staunch environment advocate, believes capitalizing on the country’s natural resources by turning them into sustainable eco-tourism sites could help alleviate poverty at the same time preserve nature.

Although the country has posted a stellar economic growth of 6.7 percent last year, Lopez, said many provinces and communities still remain poor and have no access to basic necessities such as water.

She suggested that the country not be heavily dependent on remittances and outsourcing revenues to grow the economy but also consider other areas which the country would not have difficulty in selling.

“There are still communities that are poor because we are not investing in the beauty that we have,” said Lopez.

“We rely so much on industries that if overtaken by artificial intelligence (AI) in five years’ time, what should we do?” she said.

Lopez said her advocacy has produced thriving and sustainable communities such as the Ugong Rock Adventure in Palawan, which had a gross income of P21 million in 2016 from the P133,000 seed money infused to develop the area in 2009.

Buhatan River Eco-Adventure in Sorsogon City is another successful story, which saw its income rise to P3.7 million from the P770,000 grant it received.

“If it can be done in other communities, it can be done in the entire country,” said Lopez, adding that projects like these help people in the communities get sustainable livelihood while protecting and preserving the environment.
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