SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOOD PROGRAM. Officials of the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) and the local government unit pose in front of the trade fair showcasing the products of the DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program beneficiaries on Nov. 16, 2022. There are 50 booths in the trade fair. (Photo by Hilda Austria)

URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan – Over 10,000 indigent residents in the Ilocos Region have been given financial grant and capability-building training to start their own business through the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 this year.
In an interview Wednesday, DSWD Ilocos project development officer Chad Everrett Llanes said they have already disbursed over PHP200-million funding in the region for the program.
“Most of the beneficiaries were organized from community level into organizations. There are also individuals who received capital. They were those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic or the lockdowns imposed,” he said.
Each of the beneficiaries received a maximum of PHP10,000, he added.
Llanes said the number of beneficiaries might still reach up to 12,000 by the end of this year as there are still line-up grantees. 
The beneficiaries who were formed into organizations and have existing products were also given the opportunity to market their products through trade fairs or SLP Congress.
Llanes said they revived the SLP Congress where different activities for the beneficiaries, including a trade fair, were held in Urdaneta City. 
“There are 50 organizations from all over the region that joined the trade fair and were able to showcase their products,” he said.
There were 17 organizations from Pangasinan, 10 from La Union, 15 from Ilocos Sur, and eight from Ilocos Norte.
Virgilio Verseles, one of the beneficiaries and exhibitor at the trade fair, said the program has been a “huge help” for their association as it provided them additional capital and the skills training they needed.
Kumikita na kami lalo na sa mga trade fair na ganito naso sold-out produkto namin kaya laking pasalamat namin (We are earning especially in these kinds of trade fair, our products are sold out, hence it is indeed a huge help for us),” he said.
Meanwhile, SLP national program manager Edmon Monteverde said they are lobbying for increased funds for the program given the current inflation rate.
“The review of guidelines is ongoing in order to increase the amount of financial grant for the beneficiaries, especially that we are eyeing for more beneficiaries next year,” he said.
He added they are proposing to increase the grant from PHP10,000 to PHP15,000 per beneficiary.
The proposed funding for the program next year is only at PHP4.3 billion.
Monteverde said based on their latest monitoring of the 284,000 projects under SLP, 95.48 percent are still operating.
“So meaning they are still earning; their businesses still exist,” he said.
Monteverde said they will also implement the soft-skill training for the beneficiaries next year, specifically with risk-resiliency and sanitation awareness, to ensure the sustainability of the businesses by the beneficiaries.
“Since we are often hit by disasters such as typhoon(s), we thought of holding soft-skill training for resiliency so in case their areas were hardly-hit by calamities, they will not be affected. The same applies when one of their members will be infected with any illness, the other members will not be affected,” he said.
Monteverde said in most cases, the beneficiaries tend to use the capital of their businesses that led to the halting of operation or even closure.
Meanwhile, Monteverde said he was glad with the convergence among national government agencies and the local government unit, which is evident in the products of the exhibitors at the trade fair.
“The products’ packaging is good as well as the quality. The products are already saleable in the market,” he said. (PNA)