Cities Development Initiative Newsletter

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Access to financing enables woman exporter cope with the pandemic

Lolita Cabanlet, an entrepreneur based in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao, started making handmade paper products in her kitchen in 1995. Three years after, with the success of her company Oro Handmade Innovations, Inc., she took on the global market and exported products to countries such as the United States, Netherlands, France, and Germany.

 Ninety-five (95) percent of Oro Handmade Innovations’ production is for export. For more than 20 years, Lolita has been actively joining local and international trade fairs. Her products are made of handmade paper drafted from natural materials like bamboo and rattan which are processed by hand instead of machines. These are beautifully made into lamps, accent bowls, packaging boxes, and stationery such as journals and mini albums.

These would not have been possible without the help of her family and her 20 regular employees and 55 on-call staff. They have a showroom in Barra Opol, a municipality adjacent to Cagayan de Oro City. Oro Handmade also has a website and a social media account where products are displayed online.

“When the pandemic hit last year, travel restrictions made it difficult for us to ship our products and trade fairs were cancelled. We had to stop our operations as we are solely export-based, and we experienced cash flow problems,” said Lolita.

Oro Handmade  gradually re-opened in July 2020. She got several design orders, but she needed a bigger working capital.

Access to financing windows

 Since 2019, Lolita has been attending activities of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) promoting women entrepreneurial development under the Women's Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative. USAID is helping women entrepreneurs in eight Cities Development Initiative (CDI) partner cities in the Philippines access more markets, participate in viable supply chains, and enhance the efficiency and profitability of their existing business ventures.

 With the pandemic, USAID re-oriented its W-GDP activities towards helping women entrepreneurs pivot their businesses online and obtain financing and other assistance from government agencies. In collaboration with government financing institutions such as the Small Business Corporation and Landbank of the Philippines, USAID also organized webinars where women entrepreneurs like Lolita learned more about available loan packages.

 “I applied for a loan under Small Business Corporation’s financing program for micro-, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). They had a lot of requirements, including a recovery plan and a rehiring plan that need to be attached with the application,” Lolita narrated.

 “USAID guided and assisted me in preparing my requirements. I was able to come up with a recovery plan and a rehiring plan. I was able to submit my loan application on time,” she said.

 With the completed requirements and timely submission of her loan application in November 2020, Lolita received her loan in January 2021. This provided Lolita additional capital to mobilize resources and fulfill production targets despite the pandemic. Her company was able retain its regular staff, and procure bulk raw materials such as abaca fiber, bamboo strips, rattan vines, and cogon grass. 

Strengthening digital presence 

Lolita also joined USAID’s webinars on digital marketing, where she learned new tools and strategies to enhance her brand's online presence, including advertising on Facebook and Instagram and using e-commerce platforms like Shopee.

In September 2020, Lolita joined an international trade show virtually hosted in Paris. She was one of 13 entrepreneurs from the Philippines.

“I was able to apply what I learned from the USAID mentoring sessions on digital marketing during the virtual trade show,” recalled Lolita.

Through the virtual trade show and with an improved online presence, Lolita's company was able to recapture its previous buyers and meet new clients from international markets like Denmark. It also showcased innovations in product design, like using paper clay in handmade crafts, a feature that became a unique selling point and attracted new customers.

“I am very thankful to USAID. Thank you for being at the forefront of helping women entrepreneurs during these tough times,” said Lolita.

Cagayan de Oro City launches SBIR Portal for MSMEs

As COVID-19 continues to affect businesses worldwide, women entrepreneurs and MSMEs in the Philippines have shifted to online platforms to sustain operations.

On May 27, 2021, the Cagayan de Oro City government, in partnership with USAID, launched the Small Business Information and Resource (SBIR) Portal.

Homepage of the SBIR Portal.

Homepage of the SBIR Portal.

The SBIR Portal aims to provide information on national and city-level business regulations, taxation, financing options, and other information that can assist MSMEs and aspiring entrepreneurs in the process of starting their businesses and ensuring growth. The portal also serves as an e-learning platform that offers free courses on business and financial management, marketing, and other relevant topics.

The SBIR Portal is the first platform designed to cater to the needs of MSMEs based in Northern Mindanao as they recover from the effects of the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno likened initiatives such the development of the portal to a vaccine that protect people from economic dislocation.

More programs in partnership with local organizations such as the Oro Chamber will also be featured on the site. There are more than 27,000 registered businesses in Cagayan de Oro wherein 99 percent is comprised of MSMEs. This activity is supported under the U.S. Government’s W-GDP Initiative.

MSMEs from Northern Mindanao and Cagayan de Oro City government officials joined the virtual launch.

MSMEs from Northern Mindanao and Cagayan de Oro City government officials joined the virtual launch.

The virtual launch was simultaneously broadcasted on Cagayan de Oro’s official Facebook page where more than 850 people tuned in.

Women entrepreneurs in General Santos City receive free business and restaurant consoles

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more businesses are embracing digitalization to strengthen business operations.

To help women entrepreneurs in General Santos City, South Cotabato in Southern Mindanao improve business operations, USAID facilitated a partnership between the General Santos City government and local technology firm LayerTech Software Labs, Inc. to provide free business and restaurant software to 50 women entrepreneurs in the city.

The partnership was formalized through the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 2, 2021. General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera and Ms. Frei Sangil, President of LayerTech, signed the MOU.

Women entrepreneurs and representatives of the city government joined the virtual event and learned about Layertech’s Business and Restaurant Management Consoles which are designed to simplify daily business operations through proper stock inventory, order management, price monitoring, and revenue data analytics. These software consoles will be given for free by Layertech to 50 women entrepreneurs in the city who have participated in various technical and marketing online sessions conducted by USAID.

Mr. Jude Constantine Jaugan, Regional Director of the Department of Trade and Industry - Region 12, highlighted the importance of the initiative in uplifting the capabilities of micro, small and medium enterprises through a technology-based driven approach.

This initiative was piloted in Legazpi City headed by the Albay Chamber of Commerce and USAID which benefitted more than 50 women entrepreneurs.

With the digital management consoles, business operations can be more organized, allowing women entrepreneurs to engage in other income-generating opportunities and to have more time with their families. This activity is supported under the U.S. Government’s W-GDP Initiative.

Legazpi City ranks no. 1 in BLGF's top performing cities in local revenue generation for 2019.

Legazpi City ranks no. 1 in BLGF's top performing cities in local revenue generation for 2019.

Legazpi City ranks first in local revenue generation

In June 2021, the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) published the top performing provinces, cities and municipalities in local revenue generation in line with the BLGF Memorandum Circular No. 006.2021 acknowledging the efforts of local government units towards fiscal sustainability, economic growth and better public service.

Legazpi City in Albay, Southern Luzon, a USAID CDI partner city, was recognized as the top performing city for collection efficiency of locally-sourced revenues for fiscal year 2019 with a 161.2 percent collection efficiency.

The city also ranked third next to Antipolo and Cebu for year-on-year growth in locally sourced revenues with 25.5 percent. Since 2018, USAID has been providing technical assistance to improve the city’s local revenue generation and financial management by inculcating the use of income tax return as basis for business taxes, improving business tax mapping, expanding the availability of electronic payment mechanisms of the city, and streamlining and automating business and construction permits applications.

The awarding of the top performing cities in local revenue generation for 2019 was stalled for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Legazpi City government, with technical assistance from USAID, is also pursuing other means of improving revenue and financial management practices through the creation of strategic asset and financial management plans.

USAID highlights rainwater harvesting on Earth Day

Earth Day is a global advocacy celebrated annually on April 22 to raise awareness on the importance of long-term ecological sustainability.

On April 22, 2021, USAID commemorated Earth Day with a webinar on rainwater harvesting entitled “Restoring Earth’s Water Resources: An Online Orientation Workshop on Rainwater Harvesting”, in line with this year’s theme “Restore Our Earth”. Rainwater harvesting is a water conservation technology used to collect and store rainwater from relatively clean surfaces like roofs, rock catchments, or land surfaces.

More than 165 participants composed of urban planners, legislators, and water service providers from USAID's CDI partner cities and adjacent areas gained insights on the importance and principles of rainwater harvesting during the online webinar.

Mr. Paul Seong, Deputy Director of the Environment Office of USAID/Philippines, highlighted the need for practical water supply strategies to meet the increasing demand for water. Dr. Jessica Salas, a long-time advocate of rainwater harvesting in the Philippines, shared successful rainwater harvesting programs from other countries that households, business establishments, communities, water service providers and local government units can adopt. Engr. Vicky Lofamia, Section Chief of the Environmental Safeguards Section, Department of Public Works and Highways, shared her agency’s program on rainwater harvesting for public buildings.

Renowned environmentalist and former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Ms. Elisia “Bebet” Gozun also served as a resource speaker and discussed legal frameworks as a basis for legislating local ordinances on rainwater harvesting.

USAID works with national and local governments, water utilities, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the private sector in the country to implement programs to increase water security in the face of climate change.

University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, USAID, and Golden Gate University launch new urban development learning program

As cities become highly urbanized, local executives and urban planners need to advocate and implement strategies to attain resilient and sustainable development.

On June 9, 2021, the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao, launched its new urban development learning program (UDLP), the Master in Public Sector Innovations (MPSI). MPSI is a new course offering of USTP developed in partnership with USAID and Golden Gate University (GGU) in San Francisco, California.

More than 250 participants composed of officials and representatives from USTP, USAID, GGU, local environmental planners and development practitioners from Cagayan De Oro City and adjacent municipalities attended the virtual launch.

MPSI is a two-year program with four specializations that have strong relevance to emerging local and global themes in the public sector such as public policy studies, sustainable development, digital platforms and e-governance solutions, and environment and climate solutions. MPSI will be on its second semester in August 2021.

Additional modules on disaster risk reduction and management including climate change adaptation and mitigation, and water, sanitation, and hygiene being developed by USAID will also be included in the MPSI program in the coming semesters.

The launching event was followed by an inaugural lecture entitled “City of San Francisco’s Sponge Design for Climate Change and Disaster Resilience: Lessons for Cagayan de Oro and other Philippine Cities” by GGU Professor Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez III.

Holy Name University in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, in Central Visayas is also offering a UDLP which was developed with the assistance of USAID and GGU. USAID and GGU are replicating the UDLP in three other universities in the country. Through the UDLP, national and local government agencies, professional planners, and private organizations can strengthen comprehensive integrated planning, mainstream disaster resilience in development planning, and improve local government decision-making for today’s pressing challenges and issues.

University of San Agustin in Iloilo City publishes research on Philippine honey

The University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, Iloilo in Western Visayas, recently published the results of a USAID-supported research on Philippine honey and its potential antibacterial components.

Through the research, the university found that Philippine honey produced by stingless bees, Tetragonula biroi, contains an antibiotic against skin pathogens and has antioxidant activities.

The research published in the journal Molecules as part of the Special Issue “Bee Products Chemistry: Identification and Characterization of Natural Compound”.

The research published in the journal Molecules as part of the Special Issue “Bee Products Chemistry: Identification and Characterization of Natural Compound”.

The research is the product of academe-industry collaboration with University of San Agustin's two industry partners, Maridan Industries, Inc., a pioneer pharmaceutical industry in Iloilo City, Philippines and Shimadzu Asia Pacific, Singapore.

Three of the authors (Drs. Dalisay, Saludes, and Dumancas) are Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Health and Development Balik Scientists serving the Filipino community through science, technology, and innovation.

Through such partnerships, Filipino researchers can use their expertise and talents to directly contribute to the Philippines’ economic competitiveness and inclusive growth.

Click here to read more about the latest paper published in Molecules as part of the Special Issue “Bee Products Chemistry: Identification and Characterization of Natural Compound”. The journal Molecules is a leading international, peer-reviewed, open access journal of chemistry with Q2 Journal rank and Impact Factor of 3.267.

USAID/Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II with the five grantees.

USAID/Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II with the five grantees.

USAID awards new grants to expand university-led innovations

On April 27, 2021, USAID/Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II awarded nearly PhP12 million ($244,000) worth of grants to five Philippine universities for research and innovation during the pandemic.

Through these grants, entitled “Widening Applications of Research within the Pandemic,” USAID will help Philippine universities build on previous USAID-funded research to address new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the U.S.-Philippines diplomatic relations, these grants are another milestone in this long-standing partnership as we work together to make higher education and innovation a driver of inclusive growth in the Philippines,” USAID Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II said during the launch.

Grantees include University of the Philippines Visayas; Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University; University of San Carlos; Mindanao State University–Iligan Institute of Technology; and Mariano Marcos State University.

The grants will also create next generation partnerships with academia, the private sector, and the local government. Since 2013, USAID has provided grants supporting innovation initiatives to almost 60 research groups in 20 higher education institutions throughout the country.

USAID works to strengthen Philippine universities’ research and innovation capacity so they can provide effective, relevant solutions to challenges in their own communities arising from the pandemic.

USAID launches a new partnership to strengthen entrepreneurship training for out-of-school Filipino youth

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected out-of-school Filipino youth.  There is an urgent need to strengthen second-chance education and training systems that can help vulnerable out-of-school youth cope with the challenges created by COVID-19. 

To address this challenge, USAID signed an agreement with the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to enhance entrepreneurship training programs for out-of-school Filipino youth on May 19, 2021.  The virtual signing event, led by USAID/Philippines Acting Mission Director Sean Callahan and DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, marks the launch of an innovative approach that develops young people’s skills in business planning and management, as well as the mindset they need to become successful entrepreneurs. 

The partnership will also train youth in design thinking for entrepreneurship, or adopting a business development approach that focuses on customer needs, and incorporate coaching and mentorship from USAID’s private sector partners. 

This initiative will serve youth who go through the Department of Education (DepEd)’s Alternative Learning System and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) technical-vocational skills training. The program will be piloted in 12 cities, including CDI partner cities Legazpi, Tagbilaran, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga. DTI will also scale the initiative across the country to reach more aspiring youth entrepreneurs.

Click here to read the full story.

(Row 1, left to right) DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez; USAID Acting Mission Director to the Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia Sean Callahan; USAID Opportunity 2.0 Chief of Party Dr. Dave Hall; (Row 2, left to right) DTI Regional Operations Group Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona and USAID Philippines Office of Education Director Dr. Thomas LeBlanc during the MOU signing of a partnership between USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 and DTI.

(Row 1, left to right) DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez; USAID Acting Mission Director to the Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia Sean Callahan; USAID Opportunity 2.0 Chief of Party Dr. Dave Hall; (Row 2, left to right) DTI Regional Operations Group Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona and USAID Philippines Office of Education Director Dr. Thomas LeBlanc during the MOU signing of a partnership between USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 and DTI.

Puerto Princesa City recognizes 'Eco Warriors'

Community waste collectors in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan in Southern Luzon, gather over 3,000 pieces of recyclable plastic per week from waste bins and neighborhood streets. With few tools or safety protections, these waste collectors risk their health for this intensive physical work. Behind the scenes, they are integral to the community’s cleanliness and preventing plastics and other waste from entering the island’s pristine waters.

Project Zacchaeus, a USAID #CleanCitiesBlueOcean grantee, is raising the profile of these critical workers as "Eco Warriors" and aims to establish a safer garbage collection system that minimizes waste pickers’ likelihood of acquiring infectious diseases from the garbage, as well as heat stroke and other complications.

The project raises community awareness about these issues to address the societal gap between waste pickers and their communities, while empowering the Eco Warriors with leadership skills, tools, and resources to advance their income and wellbeing.

USAID CDI partner cities in the Philippines.

USAID CDI partner cities in the Philippines.

Cities Development Initiative

USAID is working to strengthen the economic competitiveness and resilience of cities outside Metro Manila through the Cities Development Initiative (CDI). The CDI seeks to advance the development of cities as agents of growth that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient. Depending on the most urgent needs of the city, USAID provides a range of technical assistance, drawing from resources in economic growth, health, energy, environment, governance, and education to help cities achieve resilience and inclusive growth.

The CDI is a crucial component of the broader Partnership for Growth with Equity, a White House initiated “whole-of-government” partnership between the U.S. Government and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The partnership aims to shift the Philippines to a sustained and more inclusive growth trajectory on par with other high‐performing emerging economies. USAID has eight CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga.