StanChart creates a shared, progressive future through empowerment

SC Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing Head Mai Sangalang (2nd from right, standing) and ASKI President Rolando Victoria (3rd from right, standing) led the launch of Futuremakers by Standard Chartered program ‘Lifting Participation of Women Youth through Microentrepreneurship.’

Power is a word often undervalued in everyday life. From its most popular usage, it denotes control and influence over others, bringing to mind kings and presidents, armies and the often-quoted descent into corruption. What most people overlook is power’s more mundane definition — that of ability.

Electric power, for instance, is what enables most of the luxuries and conveniences of modern life. Sadly, like the power of kings and presidents, even this more commonplace ability is not accessible to all.

The government, under its 2023-2032 National Total Electrification Roadmap, plans to electrify 3.677 million households over the next five years, of which, 2.706 million are within the franchise areas of the electric cooperatives (ECs) requiring different modes of connection and some degree of subsidy for initial energization. About 1.29 million of these are also in off-grid areas, which include those residing in the main grid but are very difficult to reach through regular connection and require alternative solutions.

The rest are expected to be served by private investor-owned utilities and local government unit-owned utilities, and are expected to be undertaken generally through regular connections.

This is cold comfort, however, to those in the regions who still lack electric power today or are in constant risk of power outages from typhoons.

This is the issue that Standard Chartered Bank’s Futuremakers program seeks to address. The project provides microfinancing to 15 women-youth microentrepreneurs in typhoon-prone provinces of Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Isabela with loan amount ranging from P100,000 to P200,000 at no interest, which will be used for green energy adoption through installation of solar panels for their business operations to become more efficient and resilient.

“For four years now, under Futuremakers by Standard Chartered, we have been supporting women, youth and other microentrepreneurs, most recently in calamity and typhoon-prone areas such as Nueva Ecija and Aurora, to build resilience by adopting renewable energy in their business operations,” Mai Gacilo Sangalang, head of corporate affairs, brand and marketing at Standard Chartered, said.

With the cooperation of Alalay Sa Kaunlaran Microfinance Social Development Inc. (ASKI), a local microfinance institution that will manage the funds, the project aims to enable young women entrepreneurs by supplementing their electricity needs and reducing their reliance on their region’s main grid.

“Aurora is a coastal region located in a typhoon-prone area. The province’s geographical location makes it susceptible to the annual typhoon season, which typically occurs between June and November. The typhoons in this region can bring heavy rains, strong winds, and even flooding, causing damage to power infrastructure,” ASKI said.

“Aurora Electric Corp. has consistently strived to provide reliable and uninterrupted power supply to the people of the Aurora region. However, several challenges have been impacting our ability to maintain this reliability.”

During the worst scenarios, such as when Tropical Storm Paeng devastated the region in late 2022, power could be out for weeks.

Such outages severely hurt businesses like those of Jenny Dimaandac’s, whose family owns a fishery and resort in Aurora which rely heavily on the electricity for their water pumps, or Lorela Esparis’s, whose ice cream business cannot operate without their freezers.

Using the solar panels funded by green energy loans from the Futuremakers program, entrepreneurs like them could have a contingency plan that would help them in their business. And, due to plentiful sunlight in the region, it could significantly reduce their costs as well. In fact, some of ASKI’s clients reported as much as 80-90% reduction in their electricity bills, enabling them to reinvest their savings back into their businesses.

Futuremakers by Standard Chartered encourages increased economic inclusion throughout its markets as a means of addressing inequality. The program helps underprivileged youth (ages 35 and under), particularly women and those with visual impairments, acquire new skills and increase their employability or entrepreneurial prospects. Additionally, it fosters the success of micro and small firms by offering them the funding and expertise in financial management that they require to expand.

Beneficiaries are engaged in trading, agripreneurship, or value chain program, and whose businesses are recovering from the protracted pandemic and current economic challenges. All beneficiaries will adopt solar electrification for their microbusinesses to sustain their operations given the frequency of typhoons (resulting to power outage) and high cost of electricity in the area.

To ensure sustainability, the program also includes other components focused on skills development such as digital technology, personality development, product marketing and entrepreneurship trainings.

“It is fulfilling to see how our programs are helping beneficiaries improve their quality of life and business conditions by redeploying savings from electric costs to expand and/or diversify their enterprises. It is our aspiration to help more microentrepreneurs fully recover from the pandemic and transition into clean energy to operate more efficiently, responsibly and sustainably,” Ms. Sangalang said.

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