Entrepreneurs use Hawaii experiences to drive change in the Philippines

Entrepreneur Elvin Laceda used his experience in Hawaii to drive change in the Philippines
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:10 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Elvin Laceda says his experience in Hawaii was life-changing.

“It enabled me to see things differently, and how it can be applied in the Philippines,” he said.

While he was a student at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, he created RiceUp ― a program that helps farmers “rise up” out of poverty through financial literacy education and a mobile app that connects them directly to consumers.

“You can eradicate poverty faster by developing agriculture,” he said.

The project won first place in the U.S. social entrepreneurship competition Enactus three years in a row ― in 2018, 2019 and 2020 -- and launched in multiple countries.

The Philippine project serves 1,300 farmers. Laceda runs it from his home in Pampanga province, about 90 minutes north of Manila

He partners with local banks and created a tech platform Sakahon to do forecasting and fulfill orders.

“That enables us to know what the market needs three to six months ahead of time, so that we can guide the farmers in producing crops,” he said.

“Farmers are not financially illiterate, they don’t even know how much really their income, they do not even keep records,” said farmer Ricardo Reyes, Jr.

“if they’re given enough capital, by the country by the government, then it’s easy for the whole country to, to uplift themselves,” Elaine Timbol said.

It’s revolutionizing the Philippine agriculture industry by minimizing food waste and increasing sales. Especially at a time when rising inflation is eating into farmers’ profits.

“Its costs expensive. So they help us in financing,” farmer Judith Turla said

An idea that was seeded in Hawaii, like Hawaii-inspired Aloha Nui hotel in Candon City in Ilocos Sur province.

Owner Romeo Remolacio moved back to the Philippines after 20 years in Hawaii.

“It’s good to start something to add to the pension that you’ll have when you come back home,” Remolacio said.

Another Hawaii-born business -- Connext Global Solutions -- is headquartered in Honolulu with offices in Pampanga. From outsourcing staff to investing in real estate – Filipino officials say Hawaii entrepreneurs are helping drive the Filipino economy.

“Filipinos overseas invest substantially in various activities, form franchises can be a form, purchasing condominium units, setting up their own businesses here,” said Emil Fernandez, Philippine consul general in Honolulu. “So the contribution of Filipinos Overseas to the development of the country is immense.”

Which is why trade missions and sisterhood agreements are more important than ever.

The Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii recently renewed a partnership with its Pampanga counterpart.

The exact economic impact is not known as most entrepreneurs typically start micro and small businesses in local provinces that are hard to track. But the Chamber says its investment rate is about 10% from trade missions.

“There are no hard figures but simply anecdotal observations of Hawaii residents investing back home,” said Rose Churma, of the Hawaii-Philippines Business & Economic Council, which serves as an advocate to dual citizens who consider both Hawaii and the Philippines as home.

“We’re not talking of multi-million investments but small (maybe up to $100K) of folks interested in helping relatives set up a business or ensure a source of additional income stream upon retirement. There are those who’ve set up poultry farms, or invested in real estate to be used as boutique hotels or as rentals.”

Just some of the ways Hawaii entrepreneurs help drive change in the Philippines.