FORMER senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. File Photo

FERDINAND “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said he will channel part of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) if he becomes president.

The IRA is a local government unit’s (LGU) allocation of revenues from the national government.

Marcos said will also strengthen the country’s agriculture and transport sector and continue President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build Build Build program.

The standard bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) outlined his plan of action as president during his turn as featured candidate on Go Negosyo’s “Kandidatalks” series.

The program reached more than 1 million people and attracted 379,000 total views when it streamed live over Go Negosyo’s Facebook page last December 1.

Marcos underlined the importance of MSMEs in helping the country recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People need jobs, and the biggest bang for our buck are the MSMEs. The effect of any effort we have to help MSMEs will be felt immediately,” he said.

He said it has been a challenging year for MSMEs. “Most people are willing to become entrepreneurs, but we find MSMEs in a difficult situation,” he added, stressing that most have used up their savings, borrowed capital, and are now stuck with debt. “If we have ayuda (aid) for individuals, we should have ayuda for MSMEs.”

LGUs can set aside funds to help MSMEs and guide them by assessing the soundness of their business plans.

Marcos thinks a portion of the IRA can be allotted to help MSMEs, thanks to the Mandanas Ruling which substantially increased the allocation of LGUs.

He believes organizations like Go Negosyo can help assess the business plans of MSMEs. “We need to teach them all the things needed to run a self-owned business,” he said.

“They have the capacity from the added IRA, now the capability and training has to go into that,” he said.

Marcos added that efforts in developing small businesses should start in areas where Covid cases are low and vaccination rates are high.

Asked by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founderJose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion 3rd which of his father’s legacy he would wish to continue, Marcos said it would not be something that has to do with the economy.

The candidate is the son of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

“The most important thing is a sense of nationhood that we felt when he was president,” he said.

During the late president’s term, Filipinos spoke less of regionalism, and there was a sense of cultural awareness and a shared consciousness that became the main identifier of being Filipino, he said.

During the forum, a leading businessman asked Marcos about his plans for agricultural productivity.

He replied: “One of the first things we felt during Covid was the food supply problem. It showed the weaknesses in our agricultural system.”

Recalling his father’s “Masagana 99” program, he said the country’s approach should go beyond planting rice, and extend to research and development, the search for resilient varieties, support for farmers in securing loans and accessing agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.

Mechanization will lower production costs, he said, and pointed out the need for small farms to achieve scale by organizing more cooperatives.

Government must provide assistance in processing and bringing products to market. “This was what NFA used to do: stabilize market prices of commodities and keep prices at a level where farmers can still earn,” Marcos said.

The country must have a strategic supply of rice, and not merely be an importer of the commodity, he said.

He added that government initiatives such as the Food Terminal Inc. and Kadiwa stores demonstrated a successful, vertically integrated solution to agricultural productivity.

Marcos stressed the importance of infrastructure in seeking long-term solutions for the country. No long-term agricultural solutions would succeed, he said, without dams, which, with climate change, now serve the dual purpose of irrigation and flood control.

He said other aspects of agriculture must be developed, including high value crops, livestock and fishery.

“An accompanying program to Masagana 99 was the provision of bancas to fishermen,” he said. “We need to update that and have bigger and better equipment for our fishermen so they can make a better living,” he said.

“Agriculture is a critical element of the socioeconomic structure; it is the foundation. We cannot build industrialization unless we have a strong agricultural foundation,” he said.

As to MSMEs affected by the pandemic, Marcos said the short-term solution is to boost the people’s spending power. The medium to long-term solution involves developing the transport system, not just for people but also for goods.

He said the pandemic exposed the weaknesses of the country’s supply line, as demonstrated by the need for cold storage for vaccines and the challenges in getting goods across during the lockdowns. The country’s ability to build a good transport system will be crucial if it is to take advantage of the rise in demand next year as economies start to recover, he said.

Marcos decried the lack of capital-intensive investments in the country, and attributed it to the high cost of electricity. This, he said, creates the case for more renewable energy, an area he believes the Philippines is resource-rich but is lagging behind. “We don’t want solely hot money,” he said.

In continuing the “Build Build Build” program, Marcos said the country’s infrastructure development program must now include digital and power infrastructure. He said online activity increased during the pandemic, and gave small entrepreneurs equal footing with big brands as consumers started buying from independent suppliers.

Small entrepreneurs who joined Go Negosyo’s mentoring program asked the candidate how he can help MSMEs affected by the pandemic.

Marcos said the government must consider granting them tax amnesties. He believes that the tax structure for small businesses must be changed to make it easier for small businesses to comply with tax requirements and consequently build their credit rating.

They should have lower taxes and their goods must be VAT exempt, Marcos said.

Entrepreneurship goes beyond making money, but is also about social transformation, he said.

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