The Small Business Corporation (SBCorp) announced that it had closed its regular Bayanihan CARES Program on January 31st after funds had been completely lent out.

However, it said it will still accommodate applications from tourism-related businesses.

Cris Dile, SBCorp desk officer, said applications remain open for tourism-related enterprises, dubbed as COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises, or CARES, for Tourism Rehabilitation and Vitalization of Enterprise and Livelihood (TRAVEL).

“Actually, hindi naman nag-end ‘yong buong CARES, ‘yong regular lang kasi na-reach na ‘yong maximum para doon sa regular na around P6.8 billion nationwide. Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ‘yon para doon sa mga tourism-related industries, ‘yong CARES TRAVEL – yong mga regular. Basta walang accreditation ng DOT, automatic hindi na iyan makakapasok sa system,” Dile said.

“Iyong mga walang accreditation ng DOT, so automatic ma-regular sila. Yong sari-sari store, manufacturing, ‘yong mga hindi related sa tourism. Ang pinakatinamaan kasi ng pandemic, alam naman natin ay ‘yong turismo natin,” he added.

The CARES program is a special financing facility of SBCorp for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program assisted 40,000 MSMEs nationwide with total approved loans of P6.8 billion. During the two-year period, 1,209 applications were released in Palawan, totaling P154,326,497.

Based on SBCorp records, the regular program of Bayanihan CARES, or those enterprises not related to the tourism industry, had the highest released applications with 1,168 while TRAVEL had only 38 applications due to the hesitancy of some establishments and uncertainties in the economic situation caused by the pandemic, Dile said.

“Medyo malaki ang allotment ng pondo ron pero dahil last year, hesitant pa rin ang mga negosyante, ‘yong tourism-related industry owners, hesitant sila mag-apply. Kung mag-apply sila, abutin sila kunyare lumampas ng grace period baka maya hindi pa rin malinaw, crisis pa rin, siguro ‘yon ang iniisip nila kaya ang pondo hindi masyadong nakukuha. Maraming hindi nag-apply – may available pa siya kaya hindi pa hinihinto,” he explained.

As the regular Bayanihan CARES closes, Dile said it will have a significant impact on ordinary trading businesses such as sari-sari stores.

“Mararamdaman kasi marami naman dito ‘yong regular, ‘yong hindi tourism-related katulad nitong mga ordinaryong trading, ‘yong mga sari-sari store, mga iba-ibang negosyo, mararamdaman talaga. Kasi ‘yon ang mas marami -ang tourism kasi although marami ang nag-apply pero itong mga accommodation, hotels, alam nila ang programa pero hesitant sila mag-apply,” he said.

“Iniisip din nila na mag-utang sila pero baka wala sila pambayad pagdating ng oras dahil hindi pa malinaw ang direksyon ng economy dahil sa COVID—kakaunti lang naman yong HEROES at para sa tourism. Maramdaman talaga ‘yan kasi karamihan sa businesses, ito ‘yong nandon sa regular,” he added.

The released loans under the CARES program range from a minimum of P10,000 to a maximum of P5 million.

But even as the regular Bayanihan CARES has ended, Dile said SBCorp still has an existing lending program such as regular retail and P3 or Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso from national funds.

“Medyo stricter ang guidelines, hindi natin alam kung after nitong CARES ay luluwag. Pero prior to CARES, ang lending program natin, makaka-avail ang mga negosyante kapag at least three years ang kanilang businesses na nag-exist prior to loan application. Itong CARES, one-year lang,” he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.