Unhampered Movement of Goods and Investment in Transport Logistics Needed to Help Women Entrepreneurs Move their Products

A Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) rapid study on the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women micro entrepreneurs (WMEs) conducted in mid-2020 revealed that the enforcement of community quarantine resulted in logistics issues and reduced sales for the WMEs.

This was shared by PCW’s Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) Assistant Project Manager Carmen Lopez during the September 25, 2020 Webinar on WEE organized by the UP Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation (UPPAF) Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development (RESPOND) and the PCW. Attended by 700 participants, the webinar was conducted via Zoom and simultaneously streamed through the Facebook page of PCW and UPPAF.  

Logistics expert and U.P. Associate Professor Dr. Enrico A. Basilio who also serves as UPPAF RESPOND Chief of Party, noted that the Philippines, along with Malaysia, is among countries with the most stringent mobility restrictions in response to COVID-19. These restrictions on mobility adversely affected the transport and logistics sector. 

He shared that to facilitate movement of goods, they have been advocating that cargo trucks be spared pass-through fees (taxes).

“Just from Manila to CALABARZON, you already need 13 stickers. Consider the costs to the logistic sector. It undermines our global competitiveness, especially for goods for export coming from PEZA,” Dr. Basilio explained.

Atty. Fydah Sabando, a panelist from the Iloilo City Mayor’s Office, expounded on the need for convergence, sharing that as a regional hub, they have been coordinating with other provinces in the Panay group of islands under the “One Panay Policy.”

“Our mayor wants the movement of goods unhampered. Our LGU is dependent on taxes, so we balance fees with incentives,” said Atty. Sabando.

Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP) Executive Director Cora Curay said that they help women micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through advocacy for policies that strengthen and improve supply chain management by collaborating with government and building a network to further SCMAP cause. She added that in the first two weeks of community quarantine, SCMAP took part in the drafting of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines on logistics and supply chain.

At the firm level, Maria Rhona Begonia, Sales Director of Air21, shared that the company has a backhaul service that extends preferential rates (50% discount form published rates) exclusive for MSMEs. She added that they have partnered with government agencies that cater to the sector, and she sees no reason why it cannot be extended to women MSMEs.

Meanwhile, the government extends subsidies to shipping of agricultural and food products. Citing Department of Transportation (DoTR) Department Order 2020-007, Dr. Basilio said that “all domestic shipping lines are directed to provide (a) at least 12% cargo space allocation and (b) extend at least 40% discount on freight for agricultural and food products.” A sub-task force group on food supply chain is working on the Implementing Rules and Regulations that defines the product coverage and who could avail of the discount.

WMEs rising up despite the odds

While grappling with the many challenges in the logistics sector, WMEs find ways to keep their business afloat and protect their workers’ jobs. Among them is Crispina Singh of Crissander Enterprises (Bohol), which pivoted from creating fashion accessories to face masks with African prints that her customers from the United States of America (USA) requested.

Before, Air21 would pick up their freight and forward it to United Parcel Service (UPS). However, given the restrictions and no Air21 outbound flights, Singh shared they had to adjust shipping strategies. “We made use of cargo boats going to Cebu. A porter we know picks up our shipment from the port and brings it to the UPS office in Cebu. Our customers in the USA receive the shipment from 4-7 days. To date, we have been able to ship around 300,000 face masks to the USA,” she explained.

Another entrepreneur in the panel, Lorena Navallasca, Manager of Antique-based Balay Kauswagan Resources Center, shared that rural-based entrepreneurs have to re-imagine their products and markets to what their own community and nearby communities need.

The 25 September 2020 webinar was the second in the UPPAF RESPOND/PCW Women Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) webinar series. 

Jeanne Illo, the UPPAF RESPOND Gender Specialist served as the forum moderator. “UPPAF RESPOND is supported by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). UPPAF’s W-GDP Program focuses on enabling women by removing restrictive, regulatory barriers. It also promotes women’s economic empowerment, an advocacy issue that UPPAF shares with PCW,” said Illo.

PCW efforts to support WEE amidst the pandemic

The PCW serves as the lead executing agency for the Supporting WEE Project (also called as the GREAT Women Project 2), a project funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to improve the economic empowerment of women micro entrepreneurs (WMEs) and their workers through (1) improving competitiveness and sustainability of women’s micro enterprises and (2) improving the enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment. 

It is being implemented in partnership with different national government agencies such as the Department of Trade and industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, and other attached agencies of the aforementioned. The project also works with private sector partners such as Bayan Academy, ECHOsi Foundation, National Confederation of Cooperatives, Socio-Economic Development Program Multi-Purpose Cooperative and other individual SMEs/entrepreneurs. 

Faced with the challenge of the pandemic, the Project Management Office under the PCW assessed the status of WMEs during the implementation of the community quarantine measures due to COVID-19 through an online survey.

Of the 440 respondents, 28 % reported that they did not incur any sales at all, while 27% said their sales were reduced by more than 75%. Other than the decrease in sales, other drastic effects also include challenges in the delivery of transport of goods, paying of dues, obligations, loan, and wages, access to sources of income, ability to travel, safety of movement outside the home, and raw materials. The study also revealed the impact of the pandemic on the personal lives of the entrepreneurs, with most feeling unhappy and worried about their mental health.

To address these, the team recommends the simplification of procedures, loosening of requirements especially those related to accessing financial assistance, continuous assistance and facilitation and facilitation of Food and Drug Administration certification requirements, capacitating WMEs on business continuity planning, and providing psychological support to them.

“We intend to use the extension of the WEE Project, together with our project partners, to come together on the national and regional levels to continue implementation of the needed services and ensure the harmonization and alignment of plans to support WMEs are gender-responsive, comprehensive, and are needs and rights-based,” ended.