by TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY – A Luzon-based rural development institution for women expanded its reach to Mindanao through its micro-bank operations and other services.
The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institution (CARD-MRI), based in San Pablo City, Laguna, will open three to five micro-banking offices in Mindanao by next year, including Malalag and Malita in Davao del Sur and Tagum City.
On Friday, CARD MRI opened its CARD Bank branch along Ariel Street in GSIS Heights along Matina here.
In a press conference here on Friday, CARD MRI President Dolores Torres said the institution is expanding its services to Mindanao to support livelihood of women in rural areas through micro-financing, education, insurance and other economic and social services.
Microfinance is a financial service commonly in the form of extending soft loans to poor and low-income families and aims to provide means for the poor to strive for economic upliftment.
Torres said CARD banks provide loans as low as P5,000 to start a small and micro-business with 2% monthly interest and zero collateral.
CARD’s thrust of supporting women began in 1986 with a fund for the livelihood of women in Laguna.
“We started with a fund that helped provide P1,000 in loan for jobless women, and offered them that this would be payable in a year,” said Torres.
She attributed the warm reception of women to the beneficiaries’ trust on them, citing that CARD’s philosophy that they are “stewards of people”.
She said they started at a time when other credit groups, including from government, were going down.
CARD-MRI established its first rural bank in 1997, and from around 30 women it supported in 1986, the micro-finance institute now serves one million members in 55 branches in more than 40 provinces. There are 13,833 members in Davao.
Torres said that while their clients are primarily women, as part of their thrust in empowering this sector, they are also open to male clients who show entrepreneurial potential.
She said they are not afraid of the cases of small banks folding up, saying that that they have “99.5% repayment on loans, and 0.5% are only delayed payments.”
CARD-MRI has also established a Business Development Service Foundation Inc. in 2001 to support its micro-entrepreneur clients through marketing and business development services.
One of its thrust includes promotion of its advocacies. It includes the recent fashion show dubbed “Galing ni Inay” (Mothers’ Best), showcasing local products such as indigenous weavings, leather, paper and wood from artisans and rural women workers.
The fashion show also featured clothes and accessories designed by Laguna-based designer Cris Gamo utilizing indigenous materials such as piña cocoon from Lumban, Laguna, tiger grass from Albay, Bicol, T’nalak from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, and handwoven cloth from Mountain Province.
CARD-BDSFI President Aristeo Dequito said the products even made it to the World Bazaar October.
The designs can also be seen in CARD’s outlet in Abreeza Mall Davao.
Another BDSFI service is the “Hapinoy” for sari-sari store owners, a program done in partnership with NCCC Mall Davao and Ace Enterprises Cotabato. It engages in agriculture enterprise development as well in renewable energy projects.
CARD-MRI also conducts free medical consultation in their clinic along Magallanes, and provides medical and education support services to clients.
Microfinance has been thriving in the country, according to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2012. The EIU ranked the Philippines 4th out of 55 countries, and is one of three Asian countries in the top ten.
It added that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) has adapted microfinance as a policy to help reduce the incidence of poverty.
The Asian Development Bank also cited potential for the country’s microfinance after evaluating the Country’s Microfinance Development Program in 2008 where microfinance clients increased to 5.5 million in 2006 and created 2.6 million jobs. (Tyrone A. Velez, davaotoday.com)CARD MRI, microfinance, Trade