LIBON, ALBAY – The Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise, an enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject funded by the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), was still in the rehabilitation process from the devastation caused by typhoon Tisoy in December 2019 when the national government ordered the implementation of the Luzonwide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Yet, the Tunay Tapat Lahing Pilipino Cooperative (TTLPC), the proponent group in charge of the enterprise’s operations, did not crumble. According to Operations Manager Jerome Pedrocillo, they were prepared for this scenario.

“Actually, nung nagkaroon tayo ng typhoon, hindi kami masyadong nagkaroon ng problema kasi kumbaga naging prepared si TTLPC. With the help ng PRDP sa mga disasters na ganitong crisis, nakapag-ipon naman kami kahit papaano,” said Pedrocillo in a phone interview.

Pedrocillo shared how the PRDP’s training on business continuity planning helped them manage the COVID-19 crisis amid the lockdown.

“Malaking tulong nung nagkaroon tayo ng training and proper management pagdating sa mga funds at sa paggastos kung paano kami gagalaw sa operation, kung paano yung tamang cash flow, yung safety measures sa fund. At the same time, sa mga tao na rin–na kailangan magtabi tayo kahit paunti-unti though medyo nahihirapan tayo sa operations, okay lang just go. Basta ang importante sa mga ganitong sitwasyon meron tayong maibibigay sa mga tao,” he added.

A Business Continuity Plan includes data on operations (activities, processes and procedures), list of employees (details and contact information), list of customers, suppliers and vendors, finances, and list of assets, equipment, and machineries should a disaster occurs. The PRDP provides training on business continuity planning to its I-REAP subprojects to achieve its goal of establishing a climate-smart agriculture and fishery sector. It entails gathering and analyzing hazards and vulnerabilities associated with production challenges, climatic trends and cropping calendars as well as review of feasible interventions to address risks and hazards.

To comply with ECQ protocols, TTLPC temporarily stopped its operation. Nevertheless, the enterprise sustained their business using their husk stock since December 2019. The Management has also assigned authorized members to man the production site, monitor the status of its farmer-members, and provide the necessary relief assistance. According to Pedrocillo, the TTLPC has allocated 5 to 10 percent of its net income as emergency fund to support its members while on quarantine.    

“Of course, pinakaimportante talaga sa atin yung safety, lalo na ‘yung safety ng mga tauhan natin kasi kung wala sila, wala ring mangyayari sa operations natin,” he said.

He also mentioned that once the ECQ is lifted, the enterprise will resume its full operation and pursue its business expansion in Oas, Albay in partnership with Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which will benefit rural families, particularly coconut farmers in eight barangays.

The P5.79 million-worth Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise is the PRDP’s pioneer I-REAP subproject in the region. Currently, it employs 26 regular workers to sustain its production and operation. As of February 2020, the enterprise has generated P56,324 gross sales.

A report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cited in an article by Sean Peek published in claims that 40 to 60 percent of small businesses close permanently after a disaster. Hence, Pedrocillo urged fellow cooperatives and business organizations to take the COVID-19 crisis as a challenge and opportunity to apply the trainings provided by the Project.

“So kailangan always remember, trust yourself, trust God and apply the [learnings from] trainings kasi talaga dito na natin magagamit yung mga pinag-aralan natin na trainings. Hindi lang dapat sa isip lang kumbaga dapat i-apply po natin lahat ng mga natututunan natin sa mga ganitong sitwasyon,” he added. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)