There’s strength in numbers for MSMEs

By Myrna Rodriguez Co

(This article was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 6, 2017.)

No man is an island, entire of itself.

This oft-quoted line by John Donne means that no one can survive in isolation. Everyone needs friends, family, and communities in order to be stronger, happier, more prosperous and more secure.

So it is for businesses, especially micro- and small-scale ones.

A businessman needs suppliers of their production inputs, managers and workers, customers and buyers, investors, partners and other associates, and government agencies—those that provide incentives and assistance programs including training, credit, marketing and technical support.

Photo credit: Terje Sollie,

Dr. Paterno Viloria, president of the Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation (Serdef), thinks that one of the easiest ways a small business can build a network is to join an industry association.

“Together, members of the group can analyze and solve common problems and concerns, share common facilities, exchange information and experiences, bargain with government for incentives and other support, as well as negotiate better terms with suppliers,” Viloria says.

Ernie Bravo, owner and president of Saint Martin Pharmaceuticals, realized this in the 1990s when he was growing his small business. It was the martial law years, where crony capitalism was the order of the day and procurement was lopsided in favor of those close to the seat of power.

Encouraged by then Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon, Ernie organized local manufacturers into the Association of Drug Industries of the Philippines. It became a venue to learn best practices, seize opportunities and bargain with government.

“Together, we competed on quality and broke the stronghold of multinationals,” Bravo recalls.

There are other values a small business can enjoy from membership in industry groups:

The Chamber of Furniture Industry Association of the Philippines (CFIAP), one of the largest industry groupings in the country, offers a wide range of services to its members.

Photo credit: Startup Stock Photos (

These include training, seminars, workshops, advisory and consultative services, and other interactive sessions in relevant areas such as market intelligence, marketing, market development, human resource development, productivity improvement, environmental management and corporate social responsibility.

The CFIP also organizes an annual fair, CEBUNEXT, said to be the most anticipated furniture fair in the country.
Neil Rafisura, CEO of Salay Handmade Paper Product Industries, Inc., an export-oriented handicraft firm in Salay, Misamis Oriental, ticks off the benefits the company has derived from being a member of the Philippine Export Foundation of the Philippines (PhilExport) mandated to strengthen the country’s export industry.

“We take advantage of trainings, trade fair sponsorships and updates and other information related to export activities, policy and regulations,” he says.

The Philippine Footwear Federation, on the other hand, has worked with government assistance for the putting up of a training center for shoe craftsmen to ensure a continuous supply of skilled manpower. The federation also has a program for the development of a curriculum for modular courses.

According to Francisco Medina, a veteran shoemaker, the federation also worked with the Department of Education to include shoemaking in the technology and entrepreneurship component of the K to 12 course design. In terms of technology, members who can ill afford state-of-the-art equipment benefit from the group’s shared facilities program.

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