“This project is so heartwarming for us! When you go to the barangays, you’ll notice several areas of improvement. And we saw that the people are really exerting an effort to improve on their craft and generate livelihood for the rest of their community. These are some of our objectives, and I can say that they have been met.”
Noemi Avancena, product development consultant of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), could not help but be proud of the end result of a long and arduous journey towards the development of self-sufficiency among the small enterprises and group of artisans tapped by USAID for the Crafts of Palawan project.
Avancena, along with representatives from USAID, and the Provincial Government of Palawan, was at the recently concluded Manila FAME where the select group of Palawan-based small cooperatives and enterprises showcased for the first time their handcrafted products using locally available, sustainable materials.
The Crafts of Palawan booth put on display over 200 newly developed products, ranging from handicrafts and furniture items to houseware, fashion accessories, and souvenir items.
Eva Valledor, manager of Binuatan Creations which was part of the Crafts of Palawan at Manila FAME, shared that the program has been a tremendous help to her dedicated team of grass gatherers, who regularly source out raw materials like indigenous grass and fibers such as buntal fibers, mangrove grass, buri sprigs, vetiver, abaca, and other varieties of wild grass found mainly in the province. Binuatan Creations manufactures woven products like bags, pouches, placemats, table runners, purses, slippers, and window shades.
“Exporters are asking samples from us. For each buyer inquiry, an opportunity is given not only to us but to the grass gatherers as well. We’re not yet in the export industry, but I personally would like to learn the tricks of the trade,” said Valledor.
Binuatan Creations was one of the five MSMEs which participated in the Crafts of Palawan showcase at the 63rd Manila FAME along with AVT Bambuhay, Bacolod Rattan Furniture Shop, Malampaya Pancol Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and Nitz Pearl, Gems & Souvenir Shop.
The collaborative project of the Provincial Government of Palawan and the USAID through the Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) Project has already assisted over 18 micro-entrepreneurs and 50 local artisans since 2014. As a culminating activity, they joined the 63rd show edition of Manila FAME after an intensive six-month product development with international lifestyle designer PJ Arañador and a series of design consultations with USAID-COMPETE consultants.
“A lot of work still needs to be done, but we are already thankful to the Provincial Government of Palawan for being so supportive,” added Avancena.
Foreign trade buyers particularly from the US, Netherlands, Germany, and Japan flocked to the Crafts of Palawan booth which encouraged the exhibitors to join the succeeding editions of Manila FAME as well as other local and international trade shows.
“It’s not just the sales, but the experience here as well. They (the companies) observe a lot of things in this area. They see new ideas from other producers and their competitors. We can say that we have achieved our goals,” said Avancena, adding that the USAID is in close touch with the Provincial Government of Palawan to discuss possibilities of continuing the noble project to help local MSMEs in promoting their products and expanding their business networks.
The COMPETE Project is a four-year project funded by USAID which aims to assist the Philippines in improving its competitiveness to attain higher levels of trade and investment. USAID-COMPETE targets to develop the main sectors named in the Philippine Development Plan such as the tourism, manufacturing, logistics, and agribusiness sectors.
To boost the tourism sector of the country, USAID-COMPETE and the Provincial Government of Palawan launched a souvenir products development program for the artisans of the province, which serves as the debut collaborative effort for an exhibit at the 63rd edition of Manila FAME.