Employment program hot buzz in poverty relief
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CORON, PALAWAN—Unknown to many Filipinos, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) is committed to rub elbows with its twin sister in order to wrestle with poverty. She is called by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran or SEA-K, a community-based livelihood program in the form of micro-financing.
SEA-K was born in the 1970s, way ahead before the 4Ps waded into existence.
Social protection program
SEA-K is one of the core social protection programs under the DSWD’s convergence strategy that brings opportunities for sustainable livelihood and guaranteed employment to the poor.
It operates in two levels: Level 1, a micro-finance entry level for small biz enterprises while Level 2 is a micro-enterprise expansion that provides larger funding for shelter construction and home improvement.
In Palawan, Coronians have been happy with the spiraling success of SEA-K since it came to the communities in 1983. More and more households are forming their respective groups to build their own boardroom of SEA-K.
Barangay Bintuan, for example, set the trend for SEA-K’s best practices for outstanding performance as assessed by the DSWD Project Development Office in Palawan, using the core principles of systemic, discipline and responsible financial management. It is thus now known as Coron’s SEA-K Model for the Decade.
By this success, it is encouraging more Coronian women to buckle down to business.
Two years after the SEA-K Bintuan group paid back the seed capital of P120,000 to the DSWD in 2006, the group’s funds grew exponentially.
Inevitably, there were delinquent members who missed regular payments. While the members embrace this reality, a scheme was applied to address the vacuum.
For every weekly payment made by each member, the group’s leaders would set aside a certain amount for savings and incidentals.
Elizabeth Balbutan, SEA-K Bintuan President, said the core group had to anticipate emergency situations, from hospitalization to calamities and disasters where money would be most needed.
“When a member needs medical assistance, we pull it out from our allocation for incidentals and emergencies. We are also aware that some may be delinquent with their payments. That’s why we strictly separate the monthly principal payment from the savings.”
Unlike other SEA-K village organizations, Bintuan was quick to think of carrying out projects under this DSWD livelihood program after its loan payment completion.
Less than a year after the group got its bank clearance, it put up two income-generating projects: Tindahan Natin and Re-Lending.
The Tindahan Natin Project was motivated by the high need of the residents for rice and other basic food commodities at a lower price.
Cruzalde Ablaña, DSWD Project Development Officer for SEA-K Region IV-B, said in an interview that in Barangay Bintuan, there is high demand for rice because of the perennial challenge of delivery and production.
Every week, SEA-K Bintuan gets a regular NFA rice delivery of 20 sacks.
Meanwhile, the Re-Lending project has proven to be a godsend in the community. When the women’s organization of Coron celebrated Women’s month early this year, the group was able to lend P40,000.
“It gives us a sense of pride and fulfillment that we are able to reciprocate the help of those who have brought in opportunities for us to grow as a small organization,” shared Janice Ebon, SEA-K Bintuan Treasurer.
And while the goal is still to increase revenues through the two small enterprises, the group is still committed to becoming a good corporate citizen. Thus, it has embraced corporate social responsibility as a way of doing business.
The group, for instance, has given away rice and other basic goods to some 200 residents of Bintuan.
The Bintuan Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative grew because of the combination of unique leadership, discipline and integrity and it is committed to share its blessings.
Bintuan chair Yuri Palanca initiated the creation of the barangay cooperative in 2009 with 50 members.
Each barangay official shared P8,000 to bankroll the funds, buy the goodies and sell them or lend the money left from the startup.
In Poblacion 5, another SEA-K group of beneficiaries with 30 members is looking to expand its organization since it has been able to sustain its enterprising activities, from tiangge kiosks to airport stalls.
Kagawad and SEA-K Poblacion 5 President Estela Estilo was bold enough to take business risks when she was granted a barangay loan bolstered by the SEA-K seed capital assistance.
Her souvenir shop of Coron delicacies and novelties surprisingly grew within a year of operation.
Now, she wants another stall at an equally prime area at the airport.
SEA-K Bintuan women show that basic entrepreneurial skills are all that one needs to transform dreams into reality.
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