Digital sales were expected to take over as stores were forced to close because local MSMEs were intensely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers have gone online, speeding up an existing trend for a more shopping activity than usual. The Department of Science and Technology Region VI (DOST VI) through its Grants-In-Aid (GIA) Program supports the Bakal Lokal project of the Youth First Initiative Philippines, Inc. (YFIPI). The project shall develop an eCommerce platform that will feature locally-made, sustainable, ethically-sourced, and eco-friendly products and packaging from local producers. It aims to bridge consumers to farmers, micro and small entrepreneurs, and match local producers to MSMEs in Western Visayas to help spur economic growth and help local micro entrepreneurs. The project also seeks to establish partnership with the Department of Agriculture Region VI (DA VI) to help farmers promote their fresh produce and likewise support start-up fishermen, farmers, and micro business entrepreneurs.

The Bakal Lokal platform will offer a convenient way of buying and selling goods. It will complement the existing project of DOST, an eCommerce web application that operates nationwide and caters primarily to Philippine consumers. OneStore helps the DOST-assisted MSMEs widen the scope of their target market. The Bakal Lokal platform will also support local MSMEs in Western Visayas reach more consumers and make primary and essential goods more accessible. It will be equipped with SMS technology integration, accessible online payment systems, modern digital marketing strategies, and delivery services which will also be tapped from local service providers for a more convenient way of selling and buying.

At least 50 MSMEs, 30 local producers, 5 local transport groups, cooperatives and delivery services are initially targeted to benefit from the Bakal Lokal project. It will initially include DOST VI client-MSMEs and those with prior engagements with YFIPI. DOST VI fund assistance amounting to P1,815, 942.80 was turned over to YFIPI last July 15, 2020. (SSalazar/DOST6)