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DTI’s 'One Town, One Product' game changer for MSMEs in Cotabato

Sherile Velasco, owner of The Art of Velasco, hand-painted a thrift box made of paper tubes, one of the many handicraft products of their souvenir shop located in barangay Kalasuyan, Kidapawan City. These thrift boxes are also displayed in Pasalubong Centers in the city, as well as at trade fairs and exhibits in different parts of the country. (Photo: PIA Region 12)

The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) One Town, One Product (OTOP) program has opened doors to many micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) all over the country.

The OTOP program aims to promote and support the products that a certain town is known for through the provision of technical skills. DTI capacitates MSMEs to augment their knowledge and enhance their skills so they can become successful entrepreneurs.

The OTOP was a strategy adopted by the DTI during the administration of President Fidel Ramos who replicated the concept from Japan.

In Cotabato Province, the program has played a significant role in improving small businesses and changing the lives of their owners.

Sherile Velasco, owner and manager of the Art of Velasco, shared the impact of being a recipient of a DTI program.

“Noong nakilala namin ang DTI, na-expose na kami sa mga skills training, sa mga seminar [When we came to know the DTI, we were exposed to skills trainings and seminars]. Pinakamalaking natulong ng OTOP program ang KMME o ang Kapatid Mentor Me program [Through the OTOP, we were able to access the KMME training],” she said.

The Art of Velasco, located in Kidapawan City, is a souvenir shop where the public can purchase different souvenir items and customized handicrafts.

Velasco described the OTOP program as a life-changing intervention.

“We have the determination [to improve] the skills, but it was the program na tumulong sa amin para ma-elevate ang aming products at para mag-think big [that helped us to elevate our products and to think big],” she recounted.

Under the OTOP program, Velasco was trained on proper costing and pricing, branding, labeling, and packaging, introducing and preparing her for that entrepreneurial spirit and mindset.

Shiela Livera showed the process of drying up her coffee beans using a raised-bed, all-weather method of removing moisture. Her Robusta coffee beans are grown right in their backyard. Livera owns SJC Food Products in Barangay Sumbac, Kidapawan City. Of all their products, Kape Kidapawan is the most sought-after among the clients. (Photo: PIA Region 12)

Meanwhile, Shiela Livera, owner of SJC Food Products in Kidapawan City, said DTI deserves to be given a "perfect score" when it comes to the impact of its programs on beneficiaries.

“Ang natulong ng DTI, kung i-rate ko ng one to 10, naa jud siya sa 10. Kasi hindi nakilala ang SJC kung wala si DTI [If I were to rate DTI’s assistance from one to 10, it would be a 10. Because the SJC would not have been recognized without the DTI],” she pointed out.

Livera said that through the various trainings she attended under the OTOP program, she was able to improve the packaging and labeling aspects of her products, particularly their best-selling "Kape Kidapawan."

“Naimprove talaga ang packaging, hindi ka na mahiya na magmarket [The packaging of our products greatly improved; you wouldn’t be ashamed to market them],” she said, recalling how she used to pay P500 to P600 before just for the layout outsourcing of her products’ labels.

Velasco and Livera are just two of the many beneficiaries of the OTOP program in the province and the entire Soccsksargen, whose lives changed because of the DTI's initiative and determination to help MSMEs improve their businesses to be competitive and on par with the others in the country.

Through the OTOP program, both business owners said their income has gained traction over the years. The Art of Velasco now earns P300,000 to P400,000 annually, while SJC Food Products’ Kape Kidapawan is earning a profit of P23,000 to almost P30,000 per month.

Until now, DTI has continuously sent them to exhibits and fairs, enabling them to create and strengthen linkages with potential markets.

Mark Nikko Manginsay, provincial trade promotions officer of the DTI-Cotabato Province, said the beneficiaries of the OTOP program are well-assessed and now have the abilities to embark on product development and marketing. For product development, according to him, the MSMEs undergo assessment, consultation, and triage. After the assessment, MSMEs will be introduced to marketing by being exposed to trade fairs during local festivals, the Treasures of Region 12, and other trade exhibits in the Soccsksargen region and in the country. (Photo: PIA Region 12)

Mark Nikko Manginsay, provincial trade promotions officer of the DTI-Cotabato Province, said OTOP beneficiaries are exposed to local festivals and the Treasures of Region 12, an annual event of the DTI-12 that aims to celebrate and promote the abundant products of the Soccsksargen region.

“Ngayon na mayroon nang OTOP law, mas intense ‘yung ating programs naika-conduct para sa kanila. With the OTOP law, nandyan na talaga ang suporta ng LGUs para sa kanila [Now that there is an OTOP law, our training programs have become more intense for them. With the OTOP law, the LGUs are also mandated to support them],” he explained.

At present, the DTI provincial office has assisted 400 MSMEs under the OTOP program. Of the said number, 368 are still active beneficiaries of the program.

DTI-Cotabato Provincial Director Ferdinand Cabiles has also assured the agency's continued commitment to promoting income opportunities for MSMEs by helping them develop, improve, and promote their products not just locally but internationally. (SJDM – PIA Cotabato Province)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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Region 12

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