Culture of sharing

Filipinos are well known for our hospitality and sharing. In fact, whenever we are eating, it is not uncommon for us to say kain na to a friend, officemate or even to a complete stranger who just happened to walk by to ask for directions. In the event of disasters, this character comes to fore in the form of Bayanihan, a communal spirit that harnesses the power of unity and cooperation and symbolized by the carrying of a nipa hut to a new location after a calamity.

It is this natural kind-heartedness that has led micro entrepreneurship to flourish in the country. It is the kind of sharing that helps the poor grow and inspires others to follow by example.

A number of rural banks are wholly engaged in microfinance operations. Together with some 2,000 microfinance institutions, they are servicing close to seven million microfinance clients across the Philippines and are a big reason why microfinance has flourished in the country.

In his speech during the 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) Awarding Ceremonies last December, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amado Tetangco, Jr. said micro entrepreneurs have developed a culture of sharing.

“In words and in deeds, they inspire others who aspire to better their lives through microfinance. Across the country, microentrepreneurs prove that humble beginnings can lead to success beyond their dreams and sometimes even beyond our borders,” he said.

Funded by Citi Foundation, the CMA annually recognizes outstanding microfinance clients who have used microfinance and entrepreneurship to improve their lives and their communities.

One rural bank that has been ardent in its support for microentrepreneurs was First Agro-Industrial Rural Bank, Inc., which was awarded the Most Outstanding Rural Financial Institution for Visayas by the National Livelihood Development Corp. during the 8th Sustainable Income for People in the Agrarian Grassroots or SIPAG Awards, also last December.

As of end-June 2013, 186 banks with microfinance operations were serving over 1 million clients with combined outstanding loans of P8 billion.

These microentrepreneurs have likewise become net savers, according to Mr. Tetangco, with consolidated bank deposits of P8.9 billion, an amount that surpasses their total loan.

On the other hand, there are now 391 micro-banking offices that provide a broad range of financial services in new areas.

A retail electronic payments system through e-money and mobile banking is in place with 30 e-money issuers working alongside a network of more than 12,000 cash-in and cash-out agents.

Destructive natural calamities underscore the importance of having adequate insurance protection especially for the most vulnerable, according to the BSP chief as he stressed that microinsurance can protect the hard-earned gains of our microentrepreneurs.

With rural banks in the forefront and acting as a very active proponent, regulators and market players alike are hopeful that microfinance and microinsurance will continue to thrive in the country and protect the interest of the poor.