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EDITORIAL: 50 years of consumer product (but-no-tools) exhibits

FOR almost 50 years now since the Marcos era, finished product exhibitions or trade fairs have been regular features in our local fiestas, festivals or anniversaries of government agencies. Handicrafts, processed food stuffs or agricultural products are exhibited in malls or in open spaces within the cities or municipalities. This activity has almost become part of our culture and traditions: of buying rather than producing or selling rather than manufacturing. Basically, and for valid reason also, the program is intended to showcase Filipino talents and artisans.

Regrettably, however, the exhibits are almost always about finished consumer products. There are no capital goods included, or specific exhibit for such as: production tools, processing equipment, agricultural machineries, or appropriate technology apparatuses that are now in use in homes, shops or farms invented and manufactured by Filipino engineers and local inventors.

For those who were part of the 70’s to the early 80’s they can recall the existence and active roles of government agencies such as the National Cottage Industries Development Agency or NACIDA, Design Center Philippines and the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center. They were the agencies in the forefront of the research, design, development and promotion of handicrafts and food items as the major thrust of the rural and community development policy of then President Marcos.

We are not saying that continuing to emphasize on consumer goods and commodities for almost 50 years is wrong. There might be statistical evidence to show that such events also contribute to the development of the local economy maybe in terms of employment, increased family incomes or enhancement of local government revenues. But there is also doubt on whether such program is contributing to the development of agriculture, forestry and fisheries as raw material suppliers of the processing and manufacturing industry. In fact, there are questions on production volumes and sustainability because of depleted supply of raw materials like rattan, nito vines, palm leaves, bamboo, abaca or hard woods or even livestock in the absence of re-planting or replenishments and related animal raising industry that can push meat production and processing industries.

On the other hand, there are records and observable facts that capital goods such as tools, machineries and equipment that are used to process and to manufacture local products are still imported from China, Japan, Taiwan and other countries. We essentially buy even simple technology from foreign suppliers even if we have our own creations or discoveries. Filipino inventors are forced to sell their inventions or to work with foreign governments and capitalists for lack of attention, admiration and support from us.

If we want to develop, we need to diversify our policies from consumer-orientation to capital goods manufacturing awareness. We can start on this by shifting our marketing practices such as exhibitions and fairs from purely finished goods, products or commodities into locally made tools, machineries and other kinds of capital goods that will create pride and provide motivation and incentives to our own engineers and inventors. RRB

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