ILOILO City – Mayor Jose Espinosa III has just concluded a successful trade mission to Quanzhou City in China’s Fujian province, leading a delegation of three of Iloilo City’s biggest business associations and its most prestigious fashion organization to help promote trade and investment with the Asian economic powerhouse, and boost job opportunities for Ilonggos.
Espinosa was the only non-Chinese local chief executive invited as guest of honor at the Fujian trade fair, making another piece of history with Iloilo City representing the Philippines for the first time at the 5th China (Quanzhou) Maritime Silk Road International Brand Exposition and the 22nd Straits Textile and Clothing Fair Casual Wear Expo.
This is Iloilo City’s second major international trade mission under the leadership of Espinosa, after the groundbreaking roadshows in New York City, Virginia and Washington D.C. in the United States in June 2018 that promoted the city as a choice destination for business, investment, education, retirement, and tourism.
“We have successfully sold Ilonggo products and promoted Iloilo City’s economic vibrancy, festive tourism attractions and livability to both tourists and investors in the international market,” Espinosa reported after arriving from the China trade mission held on April 18-21.
Huang Chunhui, mayor of Shishi City in Fujian province, welcomed Espinosa. They discussed future cooperation in trade and commerce, education and tourism.
Both cities are pushing for innovations as “smart city”, maximizing the use of information and communication technology (ICT).
The trade mission also demonstrated Espinosa’s vision of putting into practical use Iloilo City’s sisterhood with various cities across the world. Quanzhou, host of the Fujian trade fair, signed a sister-city partnership with Iloilo about a year ago.
The trade mission was fully funded by the private sector, with Quanzhou City shouldering the food and accommodation of the Iloilo City delegation.
The China trade mission included Iloilo Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Panay president Ramon Cua-Locsin, Iloilo Business Club (IBC) executive director Lea Lara, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Iloilo Chapter president Jobert Peñaflorida and co-officer Alma May Rafaella Tayo, and representatives of the Iloilo City Trade and Investment Promotions Board.
On the fashion front, Designers’ Guild of Iloilo leaders Jaki Peñalosa and Hector “Totong” Gellangarin showcased the region’s fabled “hablon” fabrics along with Balai Hablon. The Ilonggo designers wowed the crowds at the Shishi Fashion Week and are expecting strong follow-up orders from potential clients from China and other fair attendees.
Local Economic and Investment Promotions Office head Ritchel Gavan said proudly Ilonggo-made food products such as butterscotch, turmeric, local teas, tablea chocolate, fashion creations using local textiles and bobbin lace embroidery were showcased in the exhibition. The local brands, which were tapped with the help of the local office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), included RGies Delicacies, Balay Tablea, Al Di Foods, Einar’s Natural Food Export, and the Women United Through Handcrafted Lace and Embroidery of Santa Barbara, Iloilo.
Some 70,000 Chinese and foreign buyers and 500 enterprises from 40 countries attended the trade fair. Members of the Filipino community in Fujian and neighboring provinces, led by Consul General Julius Ceasar Flores of the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen, also cheered the Ilonggo exhibitors.
Espinosa expects the Iloilo City business community and local government to nourish the gains from these trade missions, from the distribution of brochures explaining his government’s simplified business registration process, to information on accommodations and prospective investment opportunities for all foreign investors.
He added that like the big players at the Quanzhou trade fair, local businesses can also become globally-competitive by improving their product packaging, branding and marketing.
Espinosa also reiterated calls from Chinese business groups for direct flights between China and Iloilo. He said such direct air links would spur trade and investment between China and the region, with Iloilo City serving as the gateway to this part of the country.
This, in turn, would open job opportunities for residents of Iloilo City and beyond, especially in the fields of travel and tourism, high-tech farming and food processing, property development and investment, infrastructure, education and the creative industry, he said.
Lea Lara of IBC said the delegation would be applying lessons from the Quanzhou trade fair to boost Iloilo City’s status as a fast-emerging center for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions./PN