In photo (L-R): Atty. Mae Gallos (DOH), Alice Opena (DTI-BSMED), Usec. Zeny Maglaya (DTI-ROG), Sec. Francisco Duque (DOH), PA Joey Concepcion, Merly Cruz (Go Negosyo), and Gianina Napo (Go Negosyo).

I have always reiterated that Filipinos are not destined for poverty. This is why as the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and founder of Go Negosyo, I have the opportunity to bridge both the public and private sectors in addressing the concerns of the underserved members of the society.

Just this May 31, I invited Health Secretary Francisco Duque to raise the concerns of our micro, small, and medium enterprise owners on the regulations and processes related to the Food and Drugs Administration. We were joined by Usec. Zeny Maglaya (Department of Trade and Industry), Alice Opeña (DTI Bureau of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development), Merly Cruz (Go Negosyo), and lawyer Mae Gallos (DOH).

I raised some of the MSME’s concerns on red tape issues and the process of getting an FDA approval. We discussed how FDA and DOH should enable micro and small entrepreneurs through FDA licenses and not overly regulate their operations. Being in the food industry myself, I fully understand that food, beverages, and other products do need the approval of FDA for the safety of our consumers.

We know that in order to reach a wider market, our MSMEs must acquire the necessary permits and licenses. If getting those documents restricts them from entering the international market, we must do something.

One of our proposals is to equip beneficiaries of DTI’s Shared Service Facilities to become FDA-compliant. DTI must provide high-quality machineries and equipment that will help produce products that will pass the FDA standards. We also suggested to identify local government units who can serve as role models and to also constantly monitor them to continue their best practices. I remember Bataan Gov. Abet Garcia, during our meeting with the digital enablers, offering Bataan as a testing site for programs such as these.

As a concrete moving forward action of the meeting, we are forming a technical working group composed of the DOH-FDA, DTI, and my office as presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, to come up with a clear action plan that will be presented to President Duterte. The partnership will hopefully accelerate the turnaround time of FDA processing and the license to operate (LTO) application, which will also review the redundancies in the existing system.

Through the partnership, each of the members of the technical group will have its own functions in order to properly pinpoint the cause of delays and problems, as well as to come up with the corresponding solutions. DTI will be responsible for the profiling of the food entrepreneurs registered in the country. The unit will also list the backlogs so the DOH, in turn, can formulate the action steps to solve the issues.

Aside from this, DOH will review the processes in applying for licenses in order to identify the gaps that cause the delay of the FDA approval. It will also assess the labor capacities that are currently being implemented.

We are in agreement that we must utilize capacity building and provide technical assistance to the MSMEs. As previously said, DOH would capacitate DTI on assisting entrepreneurs with the practical and technical knowhow to apply for licenses and developing their operations manual.

The action plans will be presented to President Duterte in the upcoming Pilipinas Angat Lahat Alliance launch in July. I hope that through the newly formed alliance, we are one with our MSMEs in the journey towards inclusive development, and achieving prosperity for all.

Acting as a bridge between the government, private sector, and our stakeholders would truly help our legislators to identify which problems to be prioritized. Listening to the problems of our countrymen will allow their concerns to be raised from the grassroots level to our government. By being a voice for the underserved, we enable an inclusive approach to encourage a developed national economy through entrepreneurship and mentorship.

Going into business is not an easy task and it will take some courage to delve into entrepreneurship. But with mentorship and with the initiatives from our government institutions like Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Health, and Department of Agriculture, I am certain aspiring business owners will be equipped with the knowledge to manage their enterprises.

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