Foundation urged to help MSMEs to become competitive as AEC looms

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 August) — The Department of Trade and Industry on Friday challenged organizers of the annual Mindanao Trade Expo (MTE) to help the products of micro, small and medium enterprises compete with exports coming from neighboring countries.

DTI-11 director Maria Belenda Q. Ambi the organizers can do this by expanding their network of designers, inventors, and technology providers.

Ambi said this will provide MSMEs more options for product development in preparation for the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will take effect in December this year.

“With the full implementation of the AEC, it is definitely necessary to take more aggressive and innovative measures in building the capacities of our MSMEs, thus, keep up with the challenges and capture opportunities in Asean and the rest of the world,” she said in her message at the opening of the MTE 2015 at the Abreeza Mall here.

The official noted that the holding of the MTE has benefited the MSMEs, as it has provided them an opportunity to link up with the local market for two decades already.

“It has become one of the ‘must participate’ market encounter by micro, small and medium enterprises in this part of the country wanting to introduce and exhibit their products and find markets or expand their markets,” she added.

Benjamin L. Kalalo, trustee for houseware sector of Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. pointed out that Asean, which has about 600 million consumers, offers wide market opportunities for local exporters.

He added the free trade agreements “provide avenues for us to be integrated in production or supply chains.”

This year’s MTE gathered around 100 exhibitors coming from different parts of Mindanao, according to Marian Mahinay, executive director of MTE Foundation Inc. (MTEFI).

Last year, it gathered around 140 exhibitors and earned some P141 million in revenues.

Advocating empowerment through entrepreneurship, the foundation has trained 20 residents in Carmen, Davao del Norte on new livelihood in a bid to provide them with a steady source of livable income with the support of the local government and Department of Agrarian Reform. Some of them are housewives, tricycle drivers, and vendors.

“They are developing water hyacinth to make slippers. But next year, we will expand the products to housewares and fashion accessories and other products,” Mahinay added.

According to farmers, Carmen has 17 hectares of water hyacinth, also known as waterlily, which clogs the waterways causing floods in the town.

For a start, they are penetrating the local market for their slippers.

MTEFI president Rosevic del Rosario-Cembrano added the staging of MTE seeks to showcase the potentials of water hyacinth from being wastes to products.

“The showcase, on the other hand, will give the show’s visitors a better understanding on the usage and develoopment of water hyacinth, from raw, semi-processed, fully-processed materials ready for product development and a product,” she added.

She cited that some local products in Mindanao have become known not only locally but also globally.

One such product is Yvette’s Bags that was first showcased in the early years of MTE. The brand has already reached Europe and other Asean countries.

“More importantly, this year’s MTE will highlight the skill and craftsmanship of our local designers, craftsmen and artisans who have not only product award-winning creations, but have also won in prestigious international competitions,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)