By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE participation of Iloilo City in the 5th Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road International Brand Expo (MSREXPO) at Shishi Clothing City Exhibition Art Center, Fujian China on April 18-21, 2019 introduced Ilonggo products to foreign markets and at the same time strengthened business relations with other stakeholders.

But if the local government would want to pursue and market Ilonggo products to more foreign investors, an international trade desk in Iloilo should first be established.

This was the call of Maria Victoria Lea Lara, executive director of the Iloilo Business Club (IBC), and Iloilo City Local Investment and Economic Promotion Office (LEIPO) head Ritchel Gavan.

In a press conference, Lara underscored the need for the city and the province to establish an international trade desk to help small to medium enterprises (SMEs) reach out to foreign markets.

“If the city and the province are seriously helping the SMEs reach out to foreign markets, there is really a need to come up with an international trade desk. There has to be somebody dedicated to do the specific job of checking out the requirements and standards of foreign countries,” Lara said.

According to Lara, China is the perfect market especially for food products since the consuming public is huge in number.

However, during their visit to China, there were limitations not only in terms of communication but also in the payment system and other quality standards.

“We had a hard time during our visit because their mode of payment there was cashless even in the stores along the streets,” Lara said.

Gavan shared Lara’s sentiments saying the city should look at the cashless mode of payment to open up a potentially big market in China.

“The international trade desk that Ms. Lara mentioned is something that we should look at. We also have to look at this cashless mode of payment since we have a big market in China,” Gavan said.

Lara and Gavan accompanied the Iloilo delegation to the expo.

Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa IIII headed the Iloilo delegation together with representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, Filipino- Chinese Chamber of Commerce Panay, Inc., Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Iloilo, and Iloilo provincial government.

The Iloilo delegation represented the country through its five booths offering various food products, such as butterscotch, turmeric, tablea and textile products made of hablon.

The expo was participated by around 3,000 exhibitors from over 40 countries and regions and attended by more than 20,000 professional buyers.

After selling more or less P30,000 worth of products during the expo, Lara said the participation to the trade expo was a milestone.

“We weren’t really targeting the volume, nagdala lang kami gamay na products because our aim was to bring Ilonggo products to Quanzhou and hopefully open potential market. The in-demand products are usually food like butterscotch and turmeric. They also liked the bags and shoes made of hablon,” she said. 

More than the sales, the trip to China led to more invitations and opportunities not only from Quanzhou but also the nearby City of Xiamen and other foreign investors. 

“We don’t know if the trip was the start or the end because we have so many things to do but because of this expo, we have many invitations from Xiamen.  We also encountered potential venues for bringing our product to Beijing, Xiamen, and even Europe,” she said.

Looking back at their three objectives, both Lara and Gavan are sure that the trip to China opened more doors of opportunities for the city and province of Iloilo. 

“We came there with three objectives. Joining and exposing our products to the trade expo, strengthening our relationship with our sister city, Quanzhou, expanding or establishing partnerships on areas of cooperation not only in Quanzhou but also Xiamen,” Gavan said.

In fact, potential investors that they have met in China are set to visit Iloilo City on August, Gavan revealed.