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Photo courtesy of Bote Central Inc 

There seems to be no clear end in sight yet to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has put a name on the “new normal”— the general community quarantine (GCQ) involves more relaxed measures compared to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that is still in place in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas. Businesses now have to adapt to the long-haul reality that COVID-19 brought upon us.    

Fortunately for the local coffee industry, a social enterprise (SE) invested in changing the mindset and empowering coffee farmers to process and roast their own coffee. Now their investment is paying off, as some farmer cooperatives and groups continue to operate and sell their products in their own localities, keeping their livelihood despite the disruption in the supply chain caused by the lockdowns.  

Empowering local coffee farmers as agro-entrepreneurs  

According to Vie Reyes, co-founder of Bote Central Inc., the lockdown has affected the supply of raw coffee beans from Mindanao, Visayas, and Cordillera to processors in Manila, illustrating the plight of many farmers who are unable to sell their produce to the market.  Now, more than ever, farmers are realizing how important it is to have their own coffee processing.  “Swerte ‘yung mga magkakape na may mga sariling processing, na may roasting machines, kasi nabubuhay sila. In fact, nakakapagnegosyo pa rin sila ng kape dun sa communities nila, sa areas nila,” Reyes shares.   

Bote Central Inc., a partner of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI), is a social enterprise that promotes the sustainability of the Philippine coffee industry through rationalizing the supply chain and embedding Fair Trade principles in their business. Bote Central empowers farmers to be more than suppliers, and enables them to move up the value chain as small-scale processors.   

The enterprise was able to drive local economic development through technology. Bote Central designs and builds their own coffee roasting machines, which they share with their partner coffee farming communities across the country. Their roasting machines, suitable for smallholder farmers, made it possible for these farmers to economically process and sell their own coffee, paving the way for community-based coffee roasting business facilities. In that way, farming communities can add value to their raw coffee beans and create sources of income for their families.  

Photo courtesy of Bote Central Inc

In the end, Bote Central’s intervention is not only in providing these machines at a reasonable price to local small farmers, but in opening up opportunities, ones that used to belong only to bigger players in the industry.   

Grounded in market reality over promise of false hopes  

Besides taking ownership of their role in the coffee value chain, Bote Central also imparts to farmers the value of speaking their minds. “‘Yun ang ginawa namin na change as an SE, na baguhin ‘yung values or ‘yung confidence, ‘yung mentalidad ng farmers,” Reyes shares. Bote Central, however, understands that this is only one side of the equation.  

If you talk to the farmers, balewala na sabihin mo sa kanila na magtanim kasi maganda ang presyo…

Ang dami-dami mong pwedeng sabihin sa farmers, pero we call them the false promises. Kasi you’re just giving them false hopes.

Dapat konektado ang lahat ng binibigay mong promise or hope sa market.”  

When Bote Central entered the world of coffee, it was not only the farmers that they saw needed to be changed, but the market itself. Both the farmers and the market concerns in-address naminKasi ‘di pwedeng production lang. Kailangan may kasabay siya na consumption. ‘Yung promises dapat may kabangga on the other end of the value chainYou cannot just promise the farmers na they will have gold at the end of their rainbow.”  

Bote Central imparts that the farmer himself and the communities where the farmers reside are part of the market. Reyes emphasized that, in fact, that is the primary market that the farmers should focus on. Mismong sa bahay nila umiinom sila ng kape. ‘Yung kapitbahay ni farmerumiinom ng kape, ‘yung barangay, umiinom ng kape, she explains. This is the very same market which currently operating businesses take advantage during this lockdown, given limitations on travel and mobility. 

Besides the sale of roasting machines which unfortunately has temporarily stopped, Bote Central is also engaged in the sale of coffee sourced directly from their partner farming communities. They have developed brands to cater to different market segments, but they still only move within 10 to 15 percent of the market, which they try to expand. “Consumption of coffee in the Philippines is 85 to 90 percent commodity coffee. As an SE, if you want to really make an impact sa economy natin, sa market natin, sa farmers natin, dun ka gagalaw, Reyes shares.   

Their business philosophy  

Reyes is thankful that although it is not a basic necessity like rice or meat or vegetables, coffee is part of the food mentality of Filipinos. They were also lucky to stock up on a full inventory of coffee beans before COVID-19 hit. Their Basilio brand is still available in supermarkets, and they are also pleasantly surprised with the number of online orders they receive during the ECQ. It helped that they have set up online ordering prior to COVID-19 and are ramping up online sales. However, she admits that it is nothing compared to corporate accounts, institutional accounts, and monthly orders which make up most of their revenue and are currently suspended due to the ECQ.  

Raw coffee beans are also waiting to be transported from their source communities. “Ang essence talaga ng survival ngayon is move the beansWhen we say “move the beans,” it’s literally moving and selling,” she says.  

Under ECQ, Bote Central is operating at 20% production. Only select employees are also qualified to move around, following government policies. As with other businesses, their plans this year were also pushed back. However, in the midst of these concerns, Bote Central sees several windows of opportunities. For now, that opportunity is working with the Office of Vice President Leni Robredo and other volunteers in providing free coffee for front liners. We made it into an opportunity kasi lahat naman ng business opportunities come from a problemGanun kami mag-isipGanun rin yung binibigay namin na value sa mga farmer. Kung may problemapag-usapan natin, at tingnan natin kung merong solusyon.”  

Besides the significant decrease in production and income, they also experience a higher cost of moving their products around. In terms of needed support from the government and other organizations, the enterprise considers loans and grant facilities important to help them weather this crisis; relaxed loan settlements and tax relief will also be of great help.  

FSSI has provided its partners a 60-day extension on due dates of their loan amortization and is discussing additional flexibility terms as needed to help partners cope with the effects of COVID-19 on their operations. 

Bote Central’s “after-COVID” plan is already in the pipeline. They will be putting up more coffee roasting facilities in partnership or joint venture with other SEs, businesses, or individuals who share the same business endeavor.  

In the meantime, Bote Central is shipping its coffee products nationwide in a limited capacity. In these extraordinary and trying times, let a good ol’ cup of a hundred percent locally made, sustainably sourced coffee brighten your day.  

Their Basilio and Alamid coffee are available for deliveries. You may place your orders online through You may also follow  Bote Central and Basilio: Coffee to Share on Facebook


What does it really mean to be practicing the triple bottom lines or 3BL? That question guided the conduct of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc.’s (FSSI) series of forums on Promoting the Growth and Sustainability of Social Enterprises through the 3BL Approach, held this year in key major cities nationwide.

“While people talk about it, very few organizations are really serious in measuring these bottom lines. And that’s the sad part because you can talk about it, but if you’re not serious about measuring them, you are just mouthing them, giving it lip service,” says Dr. Eduardo Morato, the Philippines’ social enterprise guru and Bayan Academy Chairman and President. Dr. Morato was the guest speaker in the forum held last August 30, 2019 in Quezon City, which gathered FSSI’s SE partners in Luzon.

Dr. Eduardo Morato, the author of the first book on SE in the world, talks about what it really means to be 3BL

In his talk, Dr. Morato stressed the need to measure the triple bottom lines – which include the social and environmental components of an organization and not just its financial performance. “You cannot manage what you don’t measure. You have to be serious about it if you’re really gonna make a difference,” he says.

Dr. Morato also addressed the seeming trend of businesses claiming to be social enterprises but whose profits do not redound to the poor. “Ngayon it’s sosyal to be a social enterprise. I will price my product and put some sob story there so that you will pay me more for my product… But for me, I would measure whether the social benefit accrues more to the business plan or the low income earners. That to me is a very, very important description.”

Meantime FSSI’s partner Mr. Paris Uy of Livegreen International highlighted the importance of perseverance in addressing problems and challenges in SE-building. Starting in 2009 as a humble organic vegetable grower and distributor, Livegreen is now supplying to 45 chains of supermarkets and companies. It also initiated trainings of farmers in organic farming, in partnership with Benguet State University. 

General Manager Ellen Limocon shares Lamac Multi-purpose Cooperative’s journey to success

For the Visayas leg of the forum, Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative’s General Manager Ellen Limocon shared how their cooperative was able to grow a seed capital of Php 3,500 in the 70’s to over Php 1 billion in assets today, transforming a remote mountain village in south-western Cebu and the lives of their members.

“God valued the sacrifices of the coop,” said Ellen who recalled that Lamac MPC’s early members contributed whatever talent and resources they had for the benefit of the community. “From chipping-in capital, to opening up roads, setting up electrical power and creating business, to providing water… the members did it with enthusiasm. Now, Barangay Lamac is a self-sustained community through the spirit of the cooperative movement,” she said.

Lamac MPC is a multi-awarded coop and Gawad Parangal Hall of Famer of the Cooperative Development Authority.

FSSI gathered SE partners in Mindanao on November 20, 2019, for the 3BL Forum in Davao City

In Mindanao, FSSI’s social enterprise and network partners gathered in Davao City on November 20, 2019, in the wake of a series of earthquakes that devastated parts of the region.

MINCODE representative and FSSI’s Board member and Projects Committee Chairperson Agnes Bolanos noted that the discussion on the triple bottom lines is timely, with the world facing a climate emergency. She encouraged SEs in Mindanao to come up with projects that would not only ensure profit is made but would also increase capacities of the vulnerable sectors. “Doing business as usual is alarming. We should do something to address the climate emergency, at swak dito ang 3BL approach ng FSSI,” she noted.  

Sustainability in business practices is what Lao Integrated Farms, Inc. (LIFI) highlighted. LIFI is a family social enterprise advocating organic farming and the triple bottom line approach. Through partnerships with government agencies and local and international organizations, LIFI prides itself in doing business morally, transforming small farmers to entrepreneurs. With several certifications on organic farming and fair trade, LIFI’s Lovely Lao Lato says “going organic” has paid off for their organization, as they have gained a steady market for their products abroad.

FSSI’s SE partners sign the Statement of Commitment to the Triple Bottom Lines

3BL Works

Aside from learning from the speakers, FSSI’s SE partners also shared their challenges and achievements in implementing the 3BL approach within their organizations.  

Malabog Integrated Enterprises Development Cooperative (MIEDECO)’s Vice Chairperson of the Board Rosalina Dulabay says addressing difficulties is about adapting and innovating. MIEDECO was organized by church leaders in 1986 as part of a comprehensive livelihood program supported by Kapwa Foundation. In 1995, the program ended and the farmer members were faced with the challenge of running the coop on their own. Dulabay says they were able to manage and even improve their operations by establishing linkages with government agencies and non-profit organizations.  She stressed the importance of having good leaders and capacitating their members.

Mr. Fred Fredeluces, CEO of Green Tropics Coffee Enterprise, also highlighted governance as essential in the growth of an organization and its members. He says leaders should have genuine concern in implementing the changes they want to happen. “We started the 3BL approach 20 years ago in Mt. Matutum, and we have seen the results,” he says.  “The farmers used to earn Php 900 per month per household. Nung in-apply naming ang 3BL, it increased to Php 3,500 per month. Dati illegal hotspot ang area; now hindi na dahil nagtanim sila ng kape and other products. Kumikita ang community, at the same time we are producing high quality coffee. Dati hirap na hirap sila. Ngayon, from shanties to semi-permanent houses. Dati highest educational attainment was Grade 5; ngayon meron nang college graduate. Ibig sabihin, na-address ang people by taking care of the planet. Kaya sana marami pa ang mag-adopt.”

FSSI Executive Director Sixto Donato C. Macasaet thanked partners for their active participation in the forum and enthusiasm to improve their organizations’ triple bottom lines. “Sana ay maging simula ito ng mas malago at tuloy-tuloy pa nating pag-uusap. Mahalaga ang ating patuloy na pag-uusap at pagtutulungan para mapagbuti natin ang ating triple bottom lines,” he said.

At the end of each forum, representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shared with SE partners the services they can avail from the agency and its upcoming plans. DTI-NCR Regional Director Ms. Marcelina Alcantara encouraged SEs to make use of the DTI’s Shared Service Facilities and participate in the One Town, One Product (OTOP) program. In Cebu, DTI-7 Assistant Regional Director Ms. Maria Elena Arbon advised the “elder” participants to make use of technologies in marketing their products and to bridge the gap with the younger generation. In Davao, DTI RAPID Growth Project Manager Mr. Pedro Terry Tuason gave an overview of the program and encouraged partners to participate. RAPID Growth is a 4.7-billion peso initiative that aims to transform agri-based MSMEs for global markets. FSSI is among its Project Steering Committee members. You can read more about the program here.

You can view more photos of the 3BL forums by following these links:

3BL Forum in the Visayas
3BL Forum in Mindanao


What's New in FSSI
On May 29, 2019, the Foundation for a Sustainable Society Inc. (FSSI) and its members and partners gathered in Quezon City for the Foundation’s 30th General Assembly, with the theme “Braving Challenges, Sustaining Enterprises.”
FSSI’s board of trustees, representatives of FSSI’s member organizations, staff and social enterprise partners during the 30th General Assembly with the theme, “Braving Challenges, Sustaining Enterprises.”

On May 29, 2019, the Foundation for a Sustainable Society Inc. (FSSI) and its members and partners gathered in Quezon City for the Foundation’s 30th General Assembly, with the theme “Braving Challenges, Sustaining Enterprises.”

The morning session was filled with insightful discussion as resource speakers Ms. Rosalina Dulabay of the Malabog Integrated Enterprises Development Cooperative (MIEDECO) of Davao City, Mr. Freddie Langpaoen of the Self-Reliant Team of La Trinidad Cooperative (SRT Co-op) of Benguet, and Ms. Christie Rowena Plantilla of the Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC) shared their organization’s experiences and lessons learned in overcoming challenges, as well as using these challenges as opportunities for innovation.

“We cannot do away with organizational problems or challenges as these are necessary ingredients of success,” shared Langpaoen as he recalled how their first few years were the most challenging. “So if you are faced with such, do not easily give up, hold on, and stand your ground,” he said.

FSSI Executive Director Sixto Donato C. Macasaet noted that the beginnings of the three cooperatives may be different, but they all performed similar strategies to sustain their enterprises. He summed these up as 1) Shared ownership, 2) Strong leadership, 3) Service that bring satisfaction to members and customers, and 4) Strong support network. 

During the afternoon session, FSSI Board Chairperson Norman Joseph Jiao, Treasurer Sylvia Paraguya and the chairpersons of FSSI committees gave updates and reports on the Foundation’s accomplishments for 2018. FSSI subsidiaries Pilipinas Ecofiber Corporation (PEC) and Cocobind, Inc. also reported their performance in the past year.

“We have weathered a challenging year and we look forward to a brighter future,” said Jiao. “This year, we will be evaluating our 2017-2019 MTDP and draft our new strategic plan. We hope that the challenges we braved in 2018 and the reforms we have instituted will bring us to the achievement of our mission of providing social investments to vulnerable communities to achieve sustainable development,” he added.

The afternoon Business Session was followed by the election of new members of the Board of Trustees and of the Good Governance Committee (GGC). The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE), and National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) join the Association of Foundations (AF), Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), and Philippine Cooperative Central Fund Federation (PCF) as new members of the Board. Meanwhile, Mindanao Alliance of Self-Help Society, Inc. – Southern Philippines Educational Center for Cooperatives (MASS-SPECC) and National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) were elected as new members of the GGC.

The Assembly also expressed its gratitude to Ms. June Rodriguez of CONVERGENCE, Ms. Agnes Bolanos of MINCODE, and Mr. Lauro Millan of NCCP, who completed their term as Board members.

The following are the officers and members comprising the new Board of Trustees:

Chairperson: Norman Joseph Jiao (Representing AF)

Vice Chairperson: Lauro Millan (Representing NCCP)

Corporate Secretary: Christie Rowena Plantilla (Representing FPSDC)

Treasurer: Sylvia Paraguya (Representing NATCCO)

Auditor: Betta Socorro Salera (Representing PCF)

Member: Agnes Bolanos (Representing MINCODE)

Member: Reynaldo Antonio Laguda (Representing PBSP)

Pictures of the General Assembly are available at