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OTOP: Another ineffective BMBE?

Poverty is the worst injustice ever known to man.  All over the globe, multitudes of programs have been conceptualized to address this continuing slavery. While some worked, others failed.

Asia prides itself to have two of these globally recognized and successful programs. These are Dr. Muhaamad Yunus’ Grameen Bank and Ex-Gov. Morihiko Hiramatsu’s (Governor of Oita Prefecture, Japan from 1979 to 2003) “Isson-Ippin-Undo” or the One Village-One Product Movement.  Their achievements were globally recognized by no less than a Nobel Peace prize award (for Dr. Muhaamad Yunus in 2006) and a Ramon Magsaysay Award (dubbed as Asia’s Nobel Peace Prize counterpart) for government service (for Gov. Morihiko Hiramatsu in 1995).

The Grameen Bank, known to lend to borrowers frowned upon by the regular financial institutions, is widely popular in the country.  The country’s credit cooperatives made use of its concept for decades now.  Recently, some rural banks (like the Fairbank) even joined the bandwagon and have already attained relative success.  

On the other hand, Gov. Hiramatsu’s One Village-One Product (OVOP) Movement, which was initiated in 1980 in Oita Prefecture, Japan isn’t that popular in the country.  Unknown to most Filipinos, this program was the key to Oita Prefecture’s rural revitalization.  In fact, it is this initiative that made the “think global, act local” a household slogan.

Until 2002, Japan’s OVOP products comprised of 338 local specialties, 148 facilities, 133 cultural items, 111 revitalized regions, and 80 items related to environment, coming to 810 products in total.

Notably, Yufuin, a town with less than ten thousand population, and one of the OVOP pioneers, welcomes more than 3.8 million visitors every year.

In all these successes, Gov. Hiramatsu emphasized that some of the key factors have always been the abundance of raw materials and labor.

In 2004, probably realizing that we have abundance of both requisites, at the onset of President Arroyo’s 6-year reign, she embarked on the same concept called One Town-One Product (OTOP) program.  Though quite late, it is still better than not having any program at all.  The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as the lead agency tasked to implement the program has been trying its best to support this initiative.

While the program is slowly taking off, apprehensively, there are no apparent reasons at all for us to rejoice.  History has taught us that successful poverty alleviation programs in this country have been private sector initiatives.  Same history book will tell us that programs were Local Government Units (LGUs) are involved are bound to fail.

The Barangay Micro Business Enterprise (BMBE) Act was a typical example of a poverty alleviation program that largely failed.  With incentives like tax holidays, minimum wage law exemption and financial supports made available, the program was still a big failure.  Why?  Local Chief Executives (LCEs) never cooperate.

OTOP, as the acronym suggests, is town based and therefore, LCEs support is necessary. If Gov. Hiramatsu,  (a local government executive) made it happen, why can’t our LCEs do it.

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