[NEWS] Micro financiers asked to invest in Mindanao’s poorest

(Courtesy of MindaNews news service. Not yet available at www.mindanews.com as of posting time.)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 July) — The Mindanao Micro-finance Council (MMC) has appealed to the micro finance institutions in Mindanao to extend loans to the poorest in Mindanao’s remotest areas to help fight poverty there.

The appeal was made during a consultative workshop on delivering micro finance services in hard-to-reach areas on July 14-15.

According to the MMC, as of 2006, Mindanao’s micro finance industry has reached only around 400,000 clients. The MMC, composed of MFIs, rural banks, non-government organizations, cooperatives and cooperative banks, aims to reach a million clients by 2010.

Most of the ‘poorest of the poor’ clients reached by micro financial institutions (MFIs) in Mindanao come from highway towns and barangays, according to Erwin M. Idong, assistant vice president of the People’s Credit and Finance Corporation (PCFC), a government-owned corporation which lends capital to the MFIs.

According to data from the PCFC, between July 2004 and March 2006, only around 448, 531 poor households or 31.6 percent of the total 1,419,516 poor households in Mindanao have accessed micro finance loans. As of 2006, only 92 percent of towns have access to micro-finance and around 67 percent of barangays are reached by small enterprise loans.

Jeffrey R. Ordoñez, MMC executive director, said there is a need to saturate the areas where the MFIs are already operating, at the same time expand their reach to the lower market segments such as upland communities and areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ordoñez said the MMC has encouraged its members to expand the markets and flow in investments in the hard-to-reach areas.

“We are also asking big MFIs to go to the ARMM areas where there is an insignificant number of clientele availing micro-finance services. Only 15,005 or only 3.34 percent poor clients were served in the ARMM out of the total 448,531 poor households served in Mindanao, he said.

Iluminada Cabigas, president of the Landbank Countryside Development (LCD) Foundation, said the MFIs should go beyond lending to poor households.

“We should be able to expand our service to them not just to give access to any small loan. We should work with MFIs for an integrated community development scheme where we build up partnership to make them stakeholders in their own community’s development,” she said.

LCD launched at the workshop today (July 15) a partnership with the MFIs in integrated community development.

Cabigas asked the MFIs to “go deeper and wider” and give small farmers and fisherfolk
more access to microfinance.

MFIs should also provide livelihood training development and help communities in job generation and should also extend more products that improve access to potable water, electricity, toilet, waste disposal and management facilities, she said.

MFIs, she added, should also help the poor in gaining access to decent housing programs,
scholarship programs, ecological and environmental protection especially to indigenous peoples and should network with local government units among other areas.

Cabigas said they expect that all towns in Mindanao and the Philippines will have access to microfinance after two years in partnership with MFIs.

Erlow Talatala, head of microfinance unit of the Asian Hills Bank based in Bukidnon, noted that micro-finance alone could not solve poverty in Mindanao.

“It is not enough to provide micro-finance to the poorest of the poor in Mindanao’s communities. The government should also provide support services,” Talatala told MindaNews.

Support services, he said, should be provided especially in depressed areas where there is poor access to health care services, electrification, infrastructure like farm to market roads, education and other social services.

“Its not also just a matter of achieving quantitative goals, but also qualitative standards like if those who have accessed microfinance have since been out of poverty,” he said.
Talatala, however, agrees there is a need to push MFIs to do their part in countryside development.

But expecting them to expand to “hard-to-reach” areas and channel their investments there, he added, requires of government to prepare the needed infrastructure as well as the peace and order situation in the area . (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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