The city government here has rolled out economic recovery assistance to lantern makers who were affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The move is part of the city government’s interventions under the Economic Recovery and Rehabilitation Programs (ERRP) aimed at assisting potential and existing micro, small, and medium enterprises here.
Mayor Edwin Santiago led on Wednesday the Lantern Industry Rehabilitation and Support Program awarding ceremony for some 30 lantern makers here.
Each registered and legitimate lantern maker was given PHP20,000 worth of assistance including cash and lantern-making materials.
“Bukod sa gusto nating lumago ang maliliit na negosyo, mahal natin ang kultura at sining ng pagpaparol dito sa San Fernando. Bilang isang matatag na gobyerno, kailangang mas lalo din nating patatagin ang ekonomiya at kultura ng lantern industry (Aside from the fact that we want small businesses to grow, we love the culture and craft of parol making here in San Fernando. As a stable government, we also need to boost the economy and culture of the lantern industry),” Santiago said in his message during the awarding ceremony.
San Fernando lantern makers are known for their creativity and craftsmanship that have made the city known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.
Remedios Agoncillo, City Investment Promotion Officer, said they started accepting and validating applicants for the ERRP program in September.
“These beneficiaries underwent validation. We screened them if registered ba sila sa (they are registered with the) Department of Trade and Industry, and if they have business permit issued by our Business License and Permit Division and dapat active member din sila ng (they should also be active members of) lantern-makers association,” Agoncillo explained.
Lantern maker and designer Roland Quiambao thanked the city government for the support and vowed to never stop making lanterns.
“Nagpapasalamat po kami sa lokal na pamahalaan sa assistance na ito. Hindi po kami titigil sa paggawa ng parol lalo na ngayon sa gitna ng pandemya. Ang mga parol ng San Fernando ang magsisilbing pag-asa ng mga Fernandino at ng mga Pilipino (We thank the local government for this assistance. We will not stop making lanterns especially now in the middle of the pandemic. The lanterns of San Fernando will serve as the hope of the Fernandinos and the Filipinos),” Quiambao said.
The beneficiaries, in exchange, promised to use 30 percent of the assistance given to them in making affordable lanterns that will be sold exclusively to Fernandinos.
Lantern makers and sellers in the province admitted that their sales have been affected by the continuing threat of Covid-19.
Ruby Santos, who has been in the lantern business for 25 years, said people have a tight budget as a result of the health crisis.
Lantern maker Ronald Guarino, who started their business in 2009, also acknowledged the huge impact of the pandemic, saying their sales declined this year.
Guarino said he was forced to reduce their workforce by more than half due to low sales and orders unlike in the past years.
The city government of San Fernando, however, vowed to continuously support the industry amid the pandemic.
Mayor Santiago also assured the staging of the much-awaited Giant Lantern Festival under the “new normal setup”.
He said the committee is exploring the possibilities of celebrating the annual tradition virtually or through online platforms. (PNA)