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UnionBank bats for financial inclusion of MSMEs

July 25, 2019

With the rapid growth of technology in recent years, more and more businesses are slowly digitizing their operations and business models to adapt to the shift in the global marketplace. Here in the Philippines, local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are also making that shift to broaden their network and cater to a bigger and more diverse market. A lot of Filipinos have proven that while this is no easy feat, it is attainable and all it takes is support.      Many MSMEs now thrive locally and they continue to grow by the number every year. UnionBank recently sat down with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to discuss the different challenges that MSMEs are facing and how they can collaborate in bridging the information gap, and ease the business climate to be more financially inclusive.      Pia Roman-Tayag, managing director of the Center for Learning and Inclusion Advocacy (CLIA) of the BSP said that one of the biggest challenges to the growth and development of MSMEs is the limited access to credit. MSMEs are often reluctant to approach banks due to the difficulty – whether real or perceived – to meet bank loan requirements. Banks on the other hand are unable to appropriately gauge the capacity of borrowers due to a lack of formal credit histories and reliable financial statements.      Another factor is MSMEs’ limited knowledge on alternative modes of financing. They mostly rely on their internal funds to finance their investments. A World Bank report also showed that about 81.2% of Philippine enterprises rely mostly on internal funds to finance their investments and only 10.1% use bank financing, which is seen to inherently limit the prospect of growth. Ms. Tayag notes that this is where technology can play a crucial role in bridging the information gap and unlocking the potential of MSME finance.      UnionBank of the Philippines aims to bridge this information gap and provide MSMEs with the appropriate financial products and services they need to scale up their businesses. One of their solutions is UnionBank GlobalLinker (UBGL), an innovative and free online digital platform where entrepreneurs can access financial assistance, connect with other businesses and potential clients, and even create their own free online store.      Through UnionBank GlobalLinker, MSMEs can also save with pre-negotiated deals and offers from the platform’s partner fintech institutions like Taxumo, a tax filing platform that automates the computation, filing, and payment of business taxes; Paynamics for secure e-commerce transactions for merchants and their acquiring banks; Acudeen for invoice financing that helps MSMEs finance their receivables ahead of time; SeedIn, Southeast Asia’s leading business financing platform that connects MSMEs with potential investors for short-term financing and; Esquire Financing which provides tailor-made business loans for additional working capital and business expansion. As of date, the GlobalLinker network consists of 250,000 users worldwide, and 15% of which (or 38,000) are Filipino MSMEs.      UnionBank has also made it easier for business owners to open and maintain their own bank account. This is via the Biz Starter Account, which allows entrepreneurs to open a UnionBank checking account for a minimum deposit of P5,000. A business checking account helps MSMEs gain more credibility with investors, customers and other businesses and keep their accounting records accurate and organized.      Making these products and connections available on UBGL is consistent with UnionBank’s push for digitization as a financial institution. Beyond providing financial products and services, UnionBank wants to help MSMEs address the constraints to their growth, especially their limited access and knowledge on digitization. In the process, they are also enabling a community of businesses to help each other grow and succeed.      “Our goal is to help MSMEs access the resources that would best suit their needs,” UnionBank’s Program Manager and Lead Advocate for UBGL, Mourese Soriano said. “We want the platform’s users to have flexible choices that will address their restraints on capital and other sources of funding.”      MSMEs make up 99.5% of the total establishments in the Philippines, and contribute to 62.9% of employment and 35% of gross value added (GVA) (as reported by the Department of Trade and Industry). With added support for MSMEs from both the public and private sectors, the Philippines can achieve a more inclusive yet globally competitive economy.

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7th Financial Inclusion Steering Committee Meeting

July 25, 2019

The Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) held its 7th meeting on 5 July 2019 at the BSP in Manila. The FISC is an important platform that was established in 2016 through Executive Order No. 208 to provide strategic direction, guidance and oversight in the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) which was launched in 2015. Now with 17 members, the inter-agency body ensures a coordinated approach to financial inclusion by ensuring policy and program cohesion and promotion of multi-sectoral collaboration.      Chaired by Governor Benjamin Diokno, the 7th FISC Meeting covered updates on priority initiatives the member agencies undertook in support of agriculture value chain financing (AVCF) and digital finance - the two focal themes of the NSFI.        The FISC members recognized the need to promote greater collaboration in government and private sector toward developing and financing agriculture value chains. Strengthening agriculture value chains can improve access of smallholder farmers and small agribusinesses to effective farming technologies and to stable, high value market– thereby improving their productivity, competitiveness, and bankability.  AVCF can therefore catalyze more meaningful and sustainable participation of the banking industry in agriculture financing, benefitting in particular the smallholders.      The FISC members also expressed their commitment to ensure more Filipinos are able to open and regularly use a transaction account so they can fully participate in the gains of an inclusive digital finance ecosystem. During the meeting, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) presented its initiative to facilitate the opening and use of e-money or basic deposit account for the conditional cash transfer program beneficiaries. Other agencies are also exploring opportunities to leverage their policymaking powers to promote use of transaction accounts, particularly by the microentrepreneurs, wage-earners and other vulnerable sectors. Aligned with this thrust, the Department of Finance also reported the ongoing interagency efforts to enable online payment of government fees and taxes which is expected to drive use of transaction accounts and digital payments.

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ZALORA holds groundbreaking of its new mega e-fulfillment center

July 22, 2019

ZALORA holds groundbreaking of its new mega e-fulfillment center ZALORA, the country’s leading fashion destination partners with Ayala AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation to celebrate the groundbreaking of the biggest efulfilment center in the Philippines dedicated to fashion e-commerce. The e-fulfillment center will have 40,000 square-meters of racking space and a 7.2 million item storage capacity at its final phase, designed to support the company’s growth plan for the next 10 years.      ZALORA Philippines (ZPH), led by its Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Paulo Campos III, joined by ZALORA Group’s CEO, Gunjan Soni, and Ayala AC Infrastructure’s Chief Operations Officer Noel Kintanar facilitated the groundbreaking ceremony for the 3.7-hectare Fashion E-Fulfillment Project in the Daang Hari and Daang Reyna Junction in Muntinlupa City.      The new e-fulfilment centre demonstrates ZALORA’s efforts in maintaining its position as a best in class ecommerce logistics player in the region. The new efulfillment centre will help double ZALORA’s productivity through significant investments on automation, test-bedding new technologies and software and improving business processes to drive productivity following the best practices of Global Fashion Group Fulfillment Centers around the world.      “We are thrilled to be able to break ground on our new state-of-the-art E-Fulfillment Center which will be the home of ZALORA in the Philippines for the next decade!” says Paulo Campos III. “This new facility will further strengthen ZALORA’s capabilities and grow its business across the archipelago, housing thousands of fashion brands, and reaching more cities and towns in the Philippines, solidifying our commitment to provide Filipino consumers the best online shopping experience possible.”      The new facility will also be the new home of ZALORA as it houses 5,000 sqm of office space for its Customer Service and e-Production teams and is expected to provide at least 1,000 job opportunities for the surrounding Muntinlupa-Cavite communities.      The ZALORA E-Fulfillment Center project is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2020.

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Have A Rainy Day Staycation with Savoy Hotel’s Rainy Day Promo

July 19, 2019

The BER months are nearing and Savoy Hotel is welcoming the drizzling season with a rainy day promo perfect for families and individuals who plan to go on a staycation in Newport City. From July 15 to September 30, guests who book at Savoy Hotel can enjoy rates as low as Php5,500 per night at an essential room with a complimentary breakfast for two.       Guests will also get a complimentary cup of hot chocolate and cookie at Savoy’s premier coworking space, The Squares, to remedy the cold season. The Squares is located in several guest floors of the hotel and is a convenient coworking space for guests who want to do business transactions and productive collaborations regardless of the lazy weather.      The rainy season is also the perfect time to appreciate and enjoy indoor activities in Newport City such as shows and performances from a roster of talented artists. As a special treat, guests availing this promo are entitled to a 20% discount on selected Resorts World Manila entertainment.       Savoy Hotel’s proximity to the airport makes it an ideal respite for tourists and business travellers alike. Enjoy world class amenities of Resorts World Manila all while conveniently being a stone’s throw away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

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Nutrition and Physical Activity: A Holistic Approach Towards Better Health Outcomes

July 17, 2019

THE country is celebrating its 45th Nutrition Month Campaign this July. Presidential Decree 491 in 1974 declared that Nutrition Month shall be celebrated every July to create greater awareness on the importance of nutrition among Filipinos. The law mandates NNC to coordinate and lead the nationwide campaign.      Themed “Kumain nang wasto at maging aktibo… push natin ‘to!”, this year’s campaign encourages everyone to advocate and realize the consumption of healthy diets, increased physical activity and reduced sedentary behavior. Pushing the advocacy means that each and every one can contribute to better nutrition and physical activity for better health. The Nutrition Month logo for the theme shows the balance that needs to be achieved through healthy diet as symbolized by the leaf of a vegetable and physical activity by moving figures of people.      The campaign aims to catalyze actions to promote the consumption of healthy diets, increased physical activity and reduced sedentary behavior through activities of daily living among individual sand families, encourage the food industry including farmers, manufacturers, distributors and food establishments to produce and make available healthier food options and advocate for the enactment of national and local legislation and policies at the workplace, school and other venues that are supportive of an enabling environment for healthy diets and physical activity.      Here are some ways to celebrate Nutrition Month: conduct seminars and other fora to discuss the Nutrition Month theme, conduct physical activities appropriate for audience intended and conduct other activities that will highlight and promote healthy diet and physical activity.      A healthy diet is one that is able to maintain energy balance to carry out everyday tasks and ensure proper functioning of the body. Further, it provides all the nutrients in the right amount needed by the body. Healthy diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. At least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables is recommended per day by the World Health Organization. Further, healthy diet refers to less intake of free sugars, fats and salt.      Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. This includes walking, exercise, sports, active forms of recreation (Zumba, yoga, etc.) and tasks in the house (cleaning, carrying, etc.).      People who engage in regular physical activity may experience the following benefits: prevention and delay of non-communicable disease, weight management, muscle and bone strength, mental health, better sleep, sports and promotion of overall well-being.      The Department of Health formulated the Philippine National Guidelines on Physical Activity (PNGPA) to spell out physical activity recommendations for various age groups. Children 5-12 years old and adolescents 13-20 years old are encouraged to engage physical activity for 60 minutes daily, while adults are to accumulate 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity. Elderly persons are encouraged to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.       As a family, members of the household are encouraged to eat a variety of foods every day, grow their own produce in their home garden and choose healthy foods even when eating away from home. Special care must be appropriated to pregnant women, and infants must be exclusively breastfed up to six months. As a community, neighbors can agree to plant and maintain fruits and vegetable gardens in vacant lots and advocate for healthy food options in carinderias and restaurants in the neighborhood. Schools must also strictly implement DepEd Order No. 13 s. 2017 which is about the guidelines on healthy food and beverage choices in schools. Constituents can unite in urging their local government to formulate policies to support the consumption of healthy diets and promotion of good nutrition. Workplace must also advocate the serving of nutritious snacks in their respective cafeterias and in during meetings, seminars and similar activities. Non-government organizations are urged to form networks and groups to promote availability of healthy foods. They can lobby for the food industry to make low sodium and low fat foods, reformulate recipes and menu to produce healthier products and introduce new products with better nutritional value.      The National Nutrition Council (NNC) Northern Mindanao spearheads the annual celebration of the Nutrition Month in the region. Among their major activities this month are Short Filmmaking Contest (open to junior and senior high school students, mechanics can be accessed at www.facebook.com/NNCRegion10), Talakayan sa PIA on July 15 and the Nutrition Month Culminating Activity on July 30.      While Nutrition Month is observed during July, holistic actions are expected to be sustained to achieve the desired outcome which is overall improvement and maintenance of one’s health.

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Ayala interns pitch innovations to help improve Filipino lives

July 17, 2019

Four interns were proclaimed the Grand Champions at the first ever Ayala Group Interns’ Innovation League (AGI2LE), the culminating event at the 11th Ayala Group Summer Internship Program (AGSIP).       The awarding ceremony, which took place at the Globe Auditorium, Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City, was attended by 120 Ayala interns and Ayala executives.       The winning team named “Osena” was comprised of Maria Betina Ramos (ADMU), Alexander Go Tian (UP), Joe Diether Cabelin (UP), and Jose Karlo Pascual (UA&P). They pitched “Paglago”, a B2B platform that aims to deliver fresh produce efficiently and sustainably from Luzon farmers to Manila kitchens. Team Osena won P50,000, an immersion trip to the headquarters of an Ayala technology partner company, and job offers from the Ayala group.      In his opening address to the interns, Ayala’s Chief Human Resource Officer and Group Head of Corporate Resources John Philip S. Orbeta said, “We at the Ayala group promised to give you an internship experience unlike any other—immersive, engaging, and challenging. After all, this is the Ayala way. For 185 years, our company has aspired to be a partner in nation building. Today, we continue to align our business objectives towards these aspirations. I believe this is what makes our internship program unique. We had no doubt that as the best in your class, you would not only be able to handle the difficulties of performing real work during your internship, but that you would also be able to explore innovative ideas that could make a difference to society. We are certainly proud that all of you have stepped up and delivered.”      Over the course of their six-week AGSIP engagement, the interns, representing the top 15% of the academic achievers in some of the country’s best universities, developed and pitched ideas to answer the brief of providing a sustainable solution that would improve the quality of life of an underserved market. Six out of 27 teams moved on to the final judging by a panel of Ayala executives, namely Toti Bengzon (Ayala Land Chief Financial Officer), Gabby Blaza (AC Industrials Strategy and Business Development Group Head), Jose Rene D. Almendras (Ayala Group Head of Public Affairs and AC Infrastructure President & CEO), Rodell Garcia (Manila Water Chief Technology Adviser), Vince Tobias (Ayala Head of Innovation), and the aforementioned John Philip S. Orbeta.      “The Ayala of today is very different from the one that existed a decade or two ago,” said Ayala Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who dropped by to congratulate the interns. “We need to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant among our customers and the communities we serve. And who better to look for reinvention than from people your age?”

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