MANILA, OCTOBER 10, 2006 (STAR) By Ed Santoalla - Zambales province in Western Luzon is blessed with natural resources, scenic spots and beaches. It is also famous for having among the Philippines’ best mangoes, the sweetest sweetmeats and marine delicacies of the tastiest kind from the waters of the South China Sea.

Like many Filipinos similarly blessed, Zambalenos have been very creative in making a living out of their abundant natural resources. They could earn more if they had bigger markets for their products and adequate support in terms of production and marketing know-how to enable them to access and compete well in such markets. As things stand, because of poor packaging and labelling as well as limited market exposure for their products, Zambales producers, who are mostly small enterprises, end up just catering to local consumers and visitors during the vacation season.

But things are beginning to change. The Department of Trade and Industry in Zambales, recognizing the potential of Zambales products to make it in Metro Manila and abroad, has taken steps to help small producers develop the ability to compete and win in markets outside the province.

One important step has been to link up Zambales producers with the Advocate of Philippine Fair Trade, Inc. (APFTI), a non-government organization that specializes in capacity-building for small producers. DTI, it was learned, has engaged APFTI as a partner in its Brand Development Project.

Under that project and through APFTI’s Integrated Enterprise Development Program (IEDP), Zambales producers have undergone training in product and design development (prototyping of new design for crafts, ingredients variations and packaging and labelling innovations for food products) as well as in effective trade fair participation (development of negotiation and marketing skills during trade fairs).

During these trainings, producers also received instructions in Fair Trade, a set of internationally recognized standards that enjoin businesses to engage in responsible and ethical trade.

Nine of the 12 Zambales enterprises from the food and crafts sector, whose product lines range from native delicacies, fish products, cashews, pastilles, mangoes to dairy and other agricultural products, have availed themselves of the aforementioned services. These enterprises are the Scentdle Enterprises, Zambrox Corp., Modecraft Enterprises, Erica Felicci Enterprise, Nana Emyang Fish Products, Cora’s Cashew Delights, Eight Vs Enterprises, Sonia’s Sweets, Bulawen Dairy Goodies, Green Thumb Agri Products, Juliet Pastillas, and Eggo’s Manufacturing. Their products have been labelled with the seal "Zambales Finest," the first ever product brand of its kind in Zambales.

The brand or seal was launched during the opening of the "8th Likha ng Central Luzon: The Best of the Provinces" trade fair held at the SM Megamall’s Megatrade Hall last October 4, 2006.

Henceforth, wherever products bearing the Zambales Finest seal are found gracing supermarket stalls and other outlets, this would tell buyers that what they are buying are the products of small, mostly community-based enterprises, who are responsible and ethical in their business practices.

"We should patronize these products because they are guaranteed not only to be of high quality but were produced by entrepreneurs who respect human rights in the workplace, pay fair wages to workers, avoid the employment of child labor, provide equal economic opportunities to women and men, and follow environmentally sound production processes," Rommel Agustin, APFTI executive director, said.

"By supporting them, we do not only ensure the continued viability of small enterprises, which comprised majority of businesses in the country, we also help protect people and the environment from exploitation and abuse by the greedy few," he added.

For more information on "Zambales Finest" and the products and advocacy of Fair Trade, contact:

The Advocate of Philippine Fair Trade, Inc. (Apfti)

47-A Road 2, Project 6, 1100 Quezon City, Philippines

Telephone: 425-1230 to 31; 454-4744

Fax: 454-1567



Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved