Phillippines: Catholic Church supports new micro-finance bank

 The first micro-finance bank in the province of Pangasinan will open next month, with the support of the Catholic Church, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr announced yesterday. De Venecia, who contributed part of his Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) as initial capitalization of the bank said the first Pangasinan Micro-finance Bank to be led by Jose Oviedo, a Catholic, will have an initial capitalization of Pesos 17.5 million. To be based in Dagupan City, (north of Manila) it will be patterned after the successful Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, of which de Venecia's friend Muhammad Yunus, founder, was recently awarded Nobel Peace Prize for his promotion of micro-finance. Grameen Bank of Yunus has 6.61 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. Of the total loan that it extended, repayment was at a high 98.5 percent. De Venecia said the Catholic cooperative of Dagupan, of which Oviedo heads, is contributing Pesos 1 million to boost the micro-finance bank's capitalization in the Philippines. The micro-finance bank will include more than 3,000 shareholders from Dagupan City, Mangaldan, San Jacinto, Manaoag, San Fabian, including those from eastern and western Pangasinan. The bank will produce loans to small borrowers, such as market vendors, drivers, fishermen and farmers. "All these need not have to go to loan sharks anymore for them to secure capitalization of their small businesses," de Venecia said. He urged other politicians of the country to set aside part of their CDFs to put up similar micro-finance banks to allow the poor to become small-time entrepreneurs instead of being idle in their homes.