FEATURES: Mindanao Trade Expo Bounces Back, Aims For Peace In Mindanao



The war-stricken areas of Mindanao may be a long way from the air conditioned rooms of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas but the Mindanao Trade Expo has bounced back to continue its mission of encouraging peace in the island by making sure Mindanao’s tri-people are holding fibers to create works of arts instead of guns.

“Mas mabuti nang materyales and hawak nila kesa baril that’s why we are reaching out to Mindanao’s tri-people especially the Indigenous People by trying to give them livelihood projects,” Mindanao Trade Expo Foundation, Inc. (MTE) founder and president Ann T. Pamintuan said. “

MTE has been known for bringing to fore the various indigenous products made in Mindanao including Pamintuan’s gold clad wires and other materials from Gilded Expression, the exotic fibers produced by Katakus or the innovative hand-woven products of Crystal Seas.

However, there is more to MTE than what meets the eye of the demanding buyers and the connoisseur. Foremost is the Foundation’s vision of making known to the world the best of Mindanao’s products.

“We initially wanted to provide a venue where we can showcase our products and then it evolved into something deeper than that,” Pamintuan said. Today, there is to make a difference in the lives of Mindanaoans not only in terms of helping entrepreneurs market their products but in keeping people busy creating things rather than destroying the island through war.

It is am ambitious dream, Pamintuan said, but it may be possible in the long run. True enough, the so-called strife in Mindanao is not merely a result of political ideologies but rather of empty stomachs. It follows that empowering people with skills and livelihood projects to make dreams for themselves may be a way to mitigate the problem.

But even this idealistic dream is in danger of vanishing no thanks to the global recession that has made the work more challenging for the Foundation. The MTE started in 1996 with nothing but a vision. Barely twelve years later, the annual trade show was able to amass P630 million in total sales including a P51.780 million cash and retail sale during the actual exhibit days.

The increasing competitiveness in the market as well as their individual businesses has prevented the Foundation officials from staging the MTE last year. Pamintuan said she was willing to just let go and concentrate on my own business until we were approached by exporters who said “matapos niyo kaming i-encourage na mag export iiwan nyo kami sa ere (after encouraging us to go into exporting you will leave us hanging in the air)?”

“And now we are bouncing back and ready to once again provide a venue for Mindanao’s micro, small and medium enterprises,” Pamintuan said. And since 2009 is International Year Of The Fiber it will be the theme of the MTE 2009.

Expect an explosion of Philippine fibers the moment you walk inside the BSP lobby for the MTE 2009 on August 13 to 16. Even the pavilions inside the main exhibit area will be decorated in bamboos and natural fibers. The pavilion, which will have 20 booths each, will vie for the Best Pavilion Award.

The expo will showcase gifts, toys and housewares, furniture and furnishing, home textile, fashion accessories, fine jewelry, processed food, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and ornamentals and allied services. Pamintuan said they are targeting a minimum of 100 exhibitors from all over Mindanao but they can make room for more.

The expo is expected to get more exhibitors this year since the organizers have lowered the exhibit fee to only P8,000 for members for a 2x2 sqm booth and P9,000 for non-members for a booth of the same size.

“What goes with MTE is not just market promotion but product development and business linkaging as well, “ Department of Trade and Industry XI director Marizon Loreto said.

MTE 2009 Chairperson Domingo Ang said aside from the exhibit the MTE will also showcase an Exporters Forum where the stakeholders can sit down and discuss the strategic plans in combating the worldwide economic downturn. “Without the exporters we cannot market out products to the world so this is an important component of the expo,” he said.

An Exporters Expo which will feature export overruns will also be held back to back with MTE 2009. Exporters will showcase and sell product overruns at very affordable prices.

The rebirth, rather the relaunch of MTE 2009 has managed to stir not only Mindanao’s business sector but the residents as well into believing that despite the world economic crisis there may be a hope for local manufacturers and even for locals who can benefit from the livelihood projects and other opportunities that will come as a result of the expo.

Given its track record of accomplishing what seems to be impossible and that includes bringing in 1,590 exhibitors , 577 buyers from the country and from other countries and generating P630.68 million sales from 1996 to 2007 the MTE is indeed on the right track. But most of all you should look forward to adding more to the already 162 thousand lives touched by MTE during that span of time(EDGE, June '09)

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