As the culminating activity in the series of roundtable discussions with key private sector players, civil society organizations (CSOs), regional line agencies, and local government units, the Local Government Capability Development Division (LGCDD) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government – National Capital Region (DILG-NCR) held the 2023 Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Forum with the theme, “Bouncing Forward: Building Economic Resilience in the Metro.” The forum was held on September 26, 2023 at Chardonnay Events Place by Astoria in Pasig City.

Commencing the event, DILG-NCR Assistant Regional Director Atty. Ana Lyn R. Baltazar-Cortez, CESO V urged the participants to make sufficiently robust investments in resilience-building efforts to mitigate risks and ensure the swift recovery of Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).

The forum included three lectures on business resiliency – “An Overview of the Risk Exposure and Vulnerability of Metro Manila” by UP Resilience Institute Director for Knowledge Sharing Dr. Likha G. Minimo; “Business Continuity Management System” by Business Continuity Managers Association of the Philippines (BCMAP) Vice President Mr. Eugene John M. Daga; and “Localizing Climate Resilience and Sustainability Initiatives” by Komunidad Founder and Chief Executive Officer Felix Ayque.

EODB Forum Facilitator and DILG-NCR LGCDD Assistant Division Chief (ADC) Luigi D.C. Pilarta also engaged in a fireside chat with Dr. Minimo and Mr. Daga to probe deeper into their lectures. Two separate panel discussions with representatives from the private sector, CSOs, and regional line agencies were also moderated by TV5 News Anchor Jester Delos Santos.

During the first panel discussion, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) – NCR Area Vice President Teresita Ngan Tian underscored the importance of a comprehensive internal business continuity plan (BCP) in ensuring the continuity of MSME operations in the face of a disaster. SM Prime Holdings – SM Supermalls Vice President Liza Silerio mentioned that consistent awareness-raising efforts are imperative for MSMEs to appreciate the BCP.

In line with this, Metro Manila Association of Food Entrepreneurs, (MMAFE) Inc. Vice President Teresa Santiano pointed out that the high vulnerability of MSMEs to disasters may be related to their low BCP compliance. National Resilience Council (NRC) Executive Director Silvestre Barrameda, Jr. then suggested having appropriate and timely capacity development, as well as enabling policies, to help MSMEs cope with disasters.

The second panel discussion focused on the initiatives of the public sector in addressing the challenges experienced by MSMEs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. DILG Bureau of Local Government Development (BLGD) Local Government Operations Officer V Aimee C. Benigno shared that the agency indirectly assisted MSMEs by relaxing payment schemes and other business requirements under the Bayanihan Act. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also conducted a 24-hour operation to accommodate all permit processes, DTI Chief Trade and Industry Development Specialist Rowena Domitilia San Jose added.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) CAMANAVA Clustered Area Science and Technology Office Head Warren D. Gomez raised that LGUs already have multi-hazard maps that enable them to easily access information on hazards present in their area. Quezon City Government – Business Permits and Licensing Department City Government Department Head III Ma. Margarita Santos stated that the LGU has developed a system where business applicants can locate areas which allow business operations, thus addressing issues of red tape and eliminating risks on businesses.

ADC Luigi D.C. Pilarta of the DILG-NCR LGCDD then presented the policy brief for the proposed Seal of Resilient Business. In recognition of the resiliency issues facing MSMEs in the Philippines, the said policy laid the predicate for the policies that aim to support the MSME sector, especially in the face of disasters and climate-related shocks.

“As a policy, the Seal presents priority areas, relevant actors, and fundamental activities, tailored to incorporate existing local development priorities, plans, and policies of local government units,” ADC Pilarta highlighted.

To further solidify their commitment to fostering economic resilience and ensuring that MSMEs in NCR can “bounce forward” amid challenges, key officials of the DILG-NCR and its partner agencies signed the Manifesto of Support for the Strengthening of Resiliency of MSMEs in NCR through the Crafting of a Regional Policy and Other Measures.

Furthermore, in recognition of their exemplary contribution and commitment to ensuring the resiliency and sustainability of MSMEs in the region, DILG-NCR, for the first time, awarded its consortium partners with the Mark of Partnership for Resilience.

In her closing remarks, DILG-NCR Regional Director Maria Lourdes L. Agustin, CESO III expressed her gratitude to the participants and reiterated the significance of the EODB Forum, saying, “it is my hope that the follow-on activities needed to turn proposals and plans into concrete action now proceed forthwith to increase our global competitiveness.”