DTI-ARMM launches social enterprise in poorest of the poor region

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DTI-ARMM) launched on Monday, September 18, a social enterprise division to promote entrepreneurship in the resource-rich but  "poorest of the poor region" of the country. 

DTI-ARMM Secretary Anwar Malang said he wanted to promote programs that would be sustainable given the current situation in the region.

"ARMM is still the poorest of poor region. We have the poorest of the poor province. We have all the resources. But why? Political issues. The Bangsamoro issue is not yet settled up until now," said Malang.

Decades of insurgency and terrorism have hampered development in Mindanao. (READ: FAST FACTS: Poverty in Mindanao)

According to the secretary, social entrepreneurship is a paradigm shift from the usual programs of the government. (READ: Giving back to the poor: Why social enterprises matter)

"All programs of the government are 'dole outs.' What does that mean for the people? They don't care much. They don't see it as capital," he said.

He said that one business locals can invest in is the Halal market given that ARMM is composed mostly of Muslims.

Malang is hopeful that through the social enterprise, Mindanaoans will find a way to move out of poverty.

"If we achieve freedom from hunger, then maybe we can empower our people," he said.

Rebuild Marawi

For a Maranao, Solaiman Matonding of the Metro Marawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that social entrepreneurship could be a way to rebuild the city.

"Important ang kabuhayan. Kung merong program para magkaron ng gana ang mga tao, mabuti. Kasi sa Marawi, nasira lahat. Pano ibalik 'yon? We really need help financially and a guide for us," Matonding said. (Livelihood is important. If there is a program that will bring the motivation among people, better. In Marawi, everything was torn down.)

"Nasira 'yung buhay mo, kailangan merong gumising para magising ang mga tao at ma-motivate," he added. (If your life was broken, you need something to wake people up and that motivates them.)

Matonding said that the programs can come in once Marawi is in rehabilitation phase.

Last May, fighting erupted between government forces and local terrorist groups. The incident led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in all of Mindanao. (READ: Why martial law is not the solution to Mindanao's woes)

The most populous city in ARMM, Marawi City was now a ghost town due to the war. (READ: The final push: Inside the Marawi battle area)

"Maranaos are industrious people. They will survive," he said.

Ideation camp

Apart from the new division, the department also launched an "ideation camp" that aims to crowdsource programs that can be implemented in the region.

DTI-ARMM in partnership with British Council under the under the European Union-funded Strengthening Civil Society Participation in Social Enterprise Education and Development (CSO-SEED) launched "Local Changes: Ideas to Impact" contest which would ask applicants to submit a proposal to address a social problem.

British Council's Head of Society Angel Flores said that it's high time to ask the communities what kind of changes the locals wanted to see.

"The ideation camp is asking communities to determine the changes they want to see in their own community. What we are trying to do here is to get ideas from them," she said.

Flores said social enterprises are usually in the metropolitan areas. "Those who were left behind don't get support from an innovative program," she said. (READ: Recruiting millennials: A challenge for social enterprises)

Applications opened on Monday. Flores said the camp is set to happen in November.

"The young people in the (ARMM) region should be the new breed of entrepreneurs," she said.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 4 out of top 5 poorest regions in the Philippines are in Mindanao. 

Poverty incidence in ARMM is at 59%, double the national average of 26.3%. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.