JOANNA ROSE T. LADDARAN is a University Extension Specialist of the University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries (UP ISSI), a part time Senior Lecturer at the UP College of Education, and Director for Public Sector Relations of the Business Continuity Managers Association of the Philippines (BCMAP).
From 2014 to 2022, she has facilitated Business Continuity Planning capacity-building workshops and awareness sessions for over 3,000 individuals from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); cooperatives; agribusinesses; and local government units, among others.
She was named as the “Continuity & Resilience Professional in the Public Sector” in the BCI Asia Pacific (APAC) Awards in 2020 and 2021. She was also a recipient of the UP Diliman 2021 Gawad Tsanselor sa Natatanging REPS or the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research, Extension, and Professional Staff (REPS) – Extension Cluster.
1. How did you get your start in the Business Continuity and Resilience industry?
I started being involved in business continuity planning when I was chosen as one of the three staff of the University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries (UP ISSI) to be among the Philippine delegates in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Train-the-Trainer Workshop on Promoting SME Business Continuity Plans in Taipei in August 2013. When we were asked during the workshop what kind of preparedness programs we have for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, we were only able to identify relief and recovery support programs which would only come after the disruption. Back then, we were not aware of any disaster preparedness efforts to help MSMEs prepare for potential business disruptions.
The workshop made me realize that BCP is integral to the UP ISSI’s goal of promoting entrepreneurship in the Philippines. It is important that we teach our entrepreneurs and would-be-entrepreneurs how to develop their business continuity plans as much as it is important that we teach them how to make their business plans. So, in 2014, we developed the UP ISSI’s MSME Business Continuity Planning Training Program. I was able to contribute by conducting workshops and awareness sessions for over 3,000 MSME owners and employees, members of cooperatives and agribusinesses, and local government units, among others.
In 2018, we renamed the UP ISSI’s BCP Training Program to Honing Agents for National Disaster Awareness (HANDA) Program: Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity Planning for MSMEs which aims to develop a culture of preparedness, and focuses on business resilience building by safeguarding employees, customers, and assets, among others. Through this program, I was able to contribute by writing some publications such as the UP ISSI Smart Business Guide on How to Prepare a Business Continuity Plan (2018), the HANDA Manual: Business Continuity Planning for MSMEs (2019), and the UP ISSI Smart Business Guide on Promoting Well-being Initiatives among MSMEs (2021).
2. What do you like most about your job?
What I like most about my job is that I am able to provide a voice to the realities of MSMEs on the ground whenever I am given the chance to participate in conferences and webinars. Even if MSMEs play a vital role in the global value chain, we often only hear about the perspective of large multi-national companies in business continuity management.
I get to interact with MSME owners and employees nationwide. I always look forward to receiving updates from our BCP Workshop and HANDA Program graduates, particularly when they inform us about the business continuity strategies they are implementing, and of how they were able to share the insights they gained from the program to their co-workers and community members.
3. Could you share with us some interesting results of your latest research with MSMEs in the Philippines? What are the challenges the MSMEs in the Philippines usually face in becoming more resilient?
The pandemic and the subsequent Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) implementation in the Philippines resulted in the disruption of the labor market, heavily impacting the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector. Based on our research, the most common effects were closure of business; cashflow problems; employees not being able to report for work; drop in sales; delay in processing and delivery of orders/services; and limited or lack of supply of raw materials and packaging materials. To cope with the situation, MSMEs employed work-from-home (WFH) arrangement, laid off some of their employees, and reduced work hours, among others. Some of these coping mechanisms meant new challenges and additional costs for MSMEs, and at worst, loss of income for retrenched employees.
We found that 52% of the MSME respondents do not have written business continuity plans. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness on the importance of BCP, and lack of knowledge on how to prepare a business continuity plan. We conclude that there is a need to increase awareness on the importance of business continuity planning among MSMEs.
In line with this, we continue to conduct our HANDA program, anchored on the Filipino term “handa” which means “prepared”, to develop a culture of preparedness in the country by bringing together the owners and managers belonging to MSMEs, cooperatives, representatives from local government units, as well as those who are interested in knowing more about safeguarding employees, customers, assets, and how to ensure that their organization / enterprise can prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and human-induced disruptions. (To know more about the UP ISSI HANDA Program, you may visit https://sendaicommitments.undrr.org/commitments/20210420_002)
Now more than ever, developing the culture of preparedness is key in ensuring the sustainable recovery and resilience of MSMEs. In time for the National Disaster Resilience Month, we will be offering the e-HANDA Course to selected MSME partners of the UP ISSI for free this July to help MSMEs build forward better.
4. In terms of your career, how do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I plan to pursue my PhD, and hope to encourage young professionals, particularly women, to be part of the business continuity and resilience industry.
I also look forward to expanding the UP ISSI’s HANDA Program to reach more MSMEs nationwide. Together with the UP ISSI Team, I plan to develop and implement a holistic business continuity and community resilience program in partnership with relevant government agencies, industry associations, as well as local and international partners that aim to support MSMEs.
5. Any encouraging words for young professionals, especially in the Philippines, who may have interest in joining our field?
I strongly encourage young professionals to join webinars and conferences organized by business continuity and resilience professionals to know more about the field and gain valuable networks that can help further their business continuity advocacy.
We all play a significant role in promoting a culture of resilience in our respective communities. Whenever I facilitate BCP workshop and awareness sessions, I usually end my presentation by telling our MSME participants that resilient communities begin with resilient citizens. As we train one MSME at a time, this has a multiplier effect because they can share what they have learned from the program to their co-workers, their family members, and those within their communities.
Author: Lucil Aguada
If you enjoyed this interview, you might also want to read this one.