The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its financing arm, the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp), will be creating a lending facility to assist pandemic-distressed micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in providing the 13th month salary of their workers.

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who is also SBCorp chairman, said the lending facility is still being worked out by SB Corp. but they are looking at P200 million initially for 20,000 to 200,000 types of loans for MSMEs. The fund would be sourced from the P8 billion allocation from the Bayanihan Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2), he said.

“Similar to what we did last year, we see no reason to defer the 13th month pay for this year as the government stands ready to support businesses amid the pandemic. We already reached out to SBCorp to develop a facility that will provide zero-interest loans to companies needing 13th month funding,” Sec. Lopez said.

The trade chief added that DTI is already discussing the planned loan facility with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Lopez, however, emphasized that the real sustainable solution is the reopening of the economy, which the government has started to implement by allowing more sectors to safely operate at increased capacities.

Last year, DTI also lent out funds from the SBCorp CAREs program to help micro and small enterprises provide the 13th month pay of their workers. The CAREs program is meant to assist enterprises affected by the pandemic. The funding came from the P8 billion allocation from the Bayanihan Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2).

In addition to the Department’s continued rollout of the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program, the Trade Secretary said that a more sustainable solution for businesses would be the continued reopening of more activities, even on Alert Levels 4 and 3.

“The idea here is that we allow more business continuity and simply adjust operating capacities at different Alert Levels to safely increase mobility,” Lopez explained.

Lopez expressed confidence of continued reopening due to higher vaccination rates, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), which now has about 80% vaccination rate and, thus, can allow safely the vaccinated customers in closed, crowded, and close contact (3C) establishments at high alert levels.

“This will be a shift from the open-close-open-close system at different lockdown levels and will bring back more economic activities and jobs. This strategy will also bring better chances of meeting financial obligations as we advance the country’s vaccination rollout and move closer to a New Normal,” he continued.

The trade chief also expressed hope that the development of new anti-viral medicines will further reduce the severe and critical COVID-19 cases in the country that will allow further reopening in the near future.

Source: Manila Bulletin (