(PN file photo)

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Palawan recently announced that its flagship Small Enterprise Technology Upgrade Program (SETUP) has equipped 40 businesses across the province with industrial-level machines, significantly enhancing their production capabilities.

Phyllicia Baguyo, a science research specialist II for DOST Palawan, stated during a May 30 press conference that the provincial office, comprising several research and development institutes, is dedicated to community-based development.

“Sustainable dapat siya. (…) [SETUP is] ongoing na po, ilang years na nag-e-exist pero may certain sectors lang kaming kini-cater like food processing, manufacturing, ICT, health and wellness, etcetera, then doon tayo nagfo-focus sa upgrading nila,” Baguyo said.

(It should be sustainable. (…) SETUP has been ongoing for several years, but we cater to specific sectors like food processing, manufacturing, ICT, health and wellness, etc. Our focus is on upgrading these sectors.)

SETUP provides assistance not only through funding for equipment but also offers laboratory services, consultation, and training in food production and safety upon request.

The program can lend up to ₱3 million to a micro, small, or medium enterprise (MSME), subject to approval by the DOST regional director.

The basic requirements include three years of business existence, necessary permits, certifications, and financial statements.

“Ayun po ay payable for three years. Pero ang kagandahan sa aming programa, wala siyang interest. Meron din tayong six months na grace period after ma-receive yung funds kasi ang client ang bibili ng equipment na gagamitin nila, so yung [six months] ang gagamitin para bumili ng equipment. Within that six months dapat ma-liquidate nila sa amin ang na-provide na financial assistance,” she said.

(The payment term is over three years. However, the advantage of our program is that it is interest-free. We offer a six-month grace period after the funds are received, as the clients will be purchasing the equipment they need. This six-month period is intended for them to buy the equipment. During this time, they must also account for the financial assistance provided to them.)

DOST Palawan noted that they have approved an average of five businesses for the SETUP program each year since before the pandemic, with most being food processing and manufacturing enterprises.

While SETUP primarily targets small businesses, it also caters to cooperatives. Baguyo said that the majority of the 40 businesses that have participated in the program are single proprietorships.

“For example kayo ay isang company na nagp-oprocess ng cashew, roasted cashed. Dati yung manual way of producing roasted cashew, yung may kalukati pa tayo mano-mano pa (…) labor intensive talaga. Yung isang client namin sa Roxas, naprovide-an na siya ng isang semi-automatic na system para mag-produce ng cashew so ngayon hindi na tao yung nagkakalukati sa kaniya, kundi machine. Madami na siyang exceed na nake-cater na customers,” she said.

(For example, if you are a company that processes cashews, specifically roasted cashews, the traditional manual method of producing roasted cashews, which involves labor-intensive shelling, is quite demanding. One of our clients in Roxas received a semi-automatic system to produce cashews. Now, instead of manual shelling, the machine handles it, allowing the company to cater to a larger number of customers efficiently.)

Baguyo also acknowledged that Palawan’s industry still lags behind other regions in technological advancements, with most innovations focused on automation rather than AI.

However, DOST is ensuring that some business operations are digitalized.

“Unti unti na rin nating ini-introduce yan at nagkakaroon na rin tayo ng digitalization na projects (…) Sa kanilang inventory system, nagpo-provide na tayo ng systems para di na manual na sulat-sulat lang or Excel, may system ng ginagamit. Pero masaydo pa rin iyong malayo kumpara sa ibang bansa,” she added.

(We are gradually introducing this and starting to implement digitalization projects. For their inventory system, we are now providing systems so that they no longer have to rely on manual writing or Excel spreadsheets; they have a dedicated system to use. However, it is still quite far behind compared to other countries.)