Belgian group sets out to aid small Filipino entrepreneurs

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Executives of Belgian organizations are urging the Philippine government to enable small and medium Filipino enterprises to flourish and create more jobs.

"You need entrepreneurs. You need a lot of people to invest, however small, in businesses," said Karel Van Eetvelt, chief executive officer of Unizo, an organization of 85,000 entrepreneurs based in Belgium.

Van Eetvelt joined a Belgian group to meet local farmers and entrepreneurs in rural areas.

Trias, a Belgian development group that maintains a presence in 10 countries, has been helping nongovernment organizations in the Philippines to train local entrepreneurs. The group is funded by Unizo and Boerenbond.

One of the sites the group visited was Camarines Sur, where Trias' partner, the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has been helping out public market vendors and small entrepreneurs.

In Manila, the Belgian team also participated in a workshop with Ka-Entrep Micro and Small Entrepreneurs Organizations of the Philippines (Ka-Entrep) to review strategies on promoting entrepreneurship.

"If you have well-rounded and educated workforce to contribute to businesses, then the potential of businesses to grow is huge," Van Eetvel says.

According to Ka-Entrep, an organization of small and micro entrepreneurs in Metro Manila, the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise Act of 2012 is supposed to encourage the formation and growth of Filipino micro enterprises. But that law, it says, fails to live up to its hype. Only a few businessmen are aware of its existence.

Citing a 2009 data from the National Statistics Office, there are 710,822 micro enterprises, accounting for 91.1 percent of all the businesses operating in the country. This segment employs 30 percent of the country's workforce.

According to Dora Hizon, president of Ka-Entrep, most Filipinos are "not trained to have an entrepreneurial mindset. Fresh graduates would always look for employment opportunities and not a business prospect."

Ka-Entrep, with Trias, now hopes to encourage more people to embark on a business.

Already, the Belgian organization plans to reach out to more organizations of entrepreneurs, as it calls the Philippine government's attention to the plight of the struggling businesses, says Gudrun Cartuyvels, Trias country director.

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