PHILIPPINES— Presidential aspirant Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo vowed to help the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) adapt to the new normal by providing them conditional loans, access to credit, integration into public procurement programs and building the right infrastructure.

Speaking during the Go Negosyo’s Kandidatalks forum on Monday, Robredo promised that if she wins in the presidential race, she will set aside P100 billion to aid the recovery of MSMEs, which have been hit hard by lockdown restrictions.

The condition is that beneficiaries of the stimulus package will not lay off their employees.

The vice president’s recovery plan also includes skills training, livelihood grants and online jobs-matching.

Robredo highlighted the need to help businesses have the right kind of infrastructure.

“The mindset in planning should be geared toward creating more green spaces, more open spaces and well-ventilated infrastructures,” she said, adding that businesses need to digitize their operations, too.

All of these would need loans, which Robredo plans to address by expanding access to credit through direct lending from state-owned banks and providing tax incentives to social enterprises.

The aspiring president also plans to integrate MSMEs into public sector procurement, noting that the government should be the group’s biggest market.

If the price and quality are competitive, Robredo said, there is no need for the government to look somewhere else.

“Small enterprises play a big role in our economy,” Robredo said, adding that they also generate 5.3 million jobs.

“They are the backbone of the economy, but they are the ones who have a hard time,” she said, explaining that MSMEs often lack capital and the resources to help them adapt during crises.

“What we realized during the pandemic is that there are many good people out there; they just need to know how to help,” she added

As a representative during the 16th Congress, Robredo filed the Sustainable Public Procurement bill, which “aimed to amend the procurement law.”

The proposed law stated that the government should take into consideration the social, economic, and environmental impact of its procurements and that MSMEs should be given a chance to bid for big projects.

Robredo acknowledged that small businesses will need opportunities for innovation, and this is where “incubator programs” can help and encourage startups.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd, who joined hosts Josephine Romero, Betong Sumaya and Maey Bautista said that Robredo plays a significant role for entrepreneurs because 90 percent of small business owners in the country are women.

“She has the unique chance of helping and inspiring all the nanays (mothers) who have turned to entrepreneurship to improve their lives,” Concepcion said.

Robredo has been a part of several Go Negosyo projects, including the Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit, 55 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs, and the Asean 2017 Prosperity for All Summit.

“Our office has benefited from Go Negosyo’s Mentor Me programs,” said Robredo, citing specifically the farmer entrepreneurs of Camarines Sur.

“We have been a partner of Go Negosyo’s programs from the time I became vice president,” she added, citing the Angat Buhay summit in 2016.