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Japanese-funded credit window in South Cotabato now open

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/3 Feb) – The Japanese government has formally rolled out a micro-lending project for micro and small entrepreneurs in South Cotabato early this week as part of Tokyo’s continuing support to peace and security overtures in Mindanao.

Akio Isomata, minister for economic affairs of the Japanese embassy, said that Japan extended P8.5 million to the South Cotabato Foundation, Inc. (SCFI), a non-government organization, to boost entrepreneurship in the area.

“We find this project so unique and interesting. This is a project that directly assists individuals with entrepreneurship, especially women, in sustaining and expanding their small scale businesses through the provision of micro-credit capital,” he said during the launching last Monday.

The project, dubbed the “Provision of Micro-Credit Capital for Augmentation of Income and Poverty Alleviation in South Cotabato,” allows borrowers to pay a monthly interest of 3.3 percent.

As is evident to all, the rate of 3.33 percent is quite affordable, compared to the normal market rate of 10 to 15 percent, Isomata said.

The Japanese official commended SCFI for being “so brave enough to take on a difficult task,” saying that it is inspiring that even small organizations can offer opportunities to people who need additional sources of living.

After several months of project implementation, Isomata said they expect an increasing number of small enterprises in the province such as sari-sari store, backyard piggery, dressmaking, marketing of processed food, and furniture making.

Isomata said the Official Development Assistance of Japan to the country is anchored on three pillars, namely, economic growth, poverty reduction and peace and stability in Mindanao.

The micro-credit project in South Cotabato is part of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction or Development (J-BIRD), which was launched in 2006. Since then 41 grassroots projects have been implemented under J-BIRD across the island, with the micro-credit project in South Cotabato the first for this year.

“We strongly hope that each project bears its fruit and, in the end, becomes a strong pillar to support the peace and security in Mindanao,” Isomata said.

Belen S. Fecundo, SCFI executive director, said the Japanese grant, which is funded through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP), will benefit around 930 micro-entrepreneurs in the areas of Koronadal City and the municipalities of Banga, Tantangan and Polomolok.

“The project does not only involve credit at an affordable interest rate of 3.33 percent per month, but also encourages borrowers to save on a weekly basis for building self-reliance and generating additional capital to scale up their enterprises,” Fecundo said.

Japan, a top donor to the ODA fund, launched GGP in the Philippines in 1989 for the purpose of reducing poverty and helping various communities engage in grassroots activities.

As of March 2010, 434 grassroots projects funded by GGP – ranging from roughly 1 to 4 million pesos – have been implemented by NGOs, local government units and other non-profit organizations.

The total grant for these projects so far amounts to $19 million. It is expected that this project will further contribute to fostering the strategic partnership between the two countries towards the future. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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