Of Sari-Sari (Variety) Stores and Permits

A HSPFI Lending Team Update.

Sari-sari (variety) stores are really common amongst HSPFI borrowers in the Philippines; they come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, from a small window display in the back of a home to neat standalone buildings on the side of a street.

Sari-Sari Store (Camiguin)

One of the things that I was really surprised to learn as a Kiva Fellow is that sari-sari store owners need to obtain a permit in order to operate. One of the last Kiva borrowers who I interviewed in Valencia City happened to be a sari-sari store owner herself, so I asked her to go into more detail about the process of obtaining a sari-sari store permit.

In order for her to get a permit, this Kiva borrower explained, she had to start at the barangay hall in the village to apply for barangay clearance. Currently her business is still under probation, as she’s only had her business for a year – so the barangay will continue observing her business for a while longer. She also attended a two-day seminar on food handling in February, and expected to receive her seminar certification about fifteen days after completion of the seminar. With the seminar certification in hand, she’ll be done with the second step of the permit application process. She’ll then return to the barangay hall for her community tax certificate, and pay P600 for her permit. She’ll need to pay P600 every year to renew her permit, since barangay officials would close her store after one month if she’s caught operating without a permit.

The process of applying for a permit wasn’t too difficult, she explained, but having to wait for processing to go through for the permit is a bit cumbersome.

Given that sari-sari stores are so common and informal looking, I hadn’t expected that there would be such strict regulations around these businesses. But once I found out, it not only explained my relative luck with regards to (mostly) avoiding stomach problems while traveling around in the field, but also gave me something else to marvel at – how all of these small sari-sari store owners are part of an active business sector, supporting a whole other network of inspectors, educators, and government employees through the fees and taxes that they’re paying. These microfinance borrowers are actively contributing to their own communities in ways that aren’t always apparent on the surface – ways that we don’t often think of.

Support a sari-sari store owner by lending through Kiva today!

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