FROM the time this writer started to write this article, yours truly happened to encounter files regarding concept and the general guidelines of previous Market Encounter that were undertaken.

It is stated in that paper, this annual activity conducted is meant to showcase the distinctive Cordillera culture, handicrafts, provincial specialties and delicacies, Cordillera plants, flowers and/or landscaping, Arts- paintings and sculptures only, Cordillera fresh fruits and organic vegetables, packed delicacies such as strawberry jams, peanut brittle and other products that the organizer may consider in accordance with its standards.

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This 15th Panagbenga Festival has come up probably with the same objectives and with some innovations to its guidelines this time.

As I was going through my old files, it reminded me of some of the unfavorable comments that this writer compiled from our local entrepreneurs particularly those who joined the previous Market Encounter.

The other day I went around and visited our exhibitors at the Abad Santos Drive, the same place where last year’s Market Encounter was undertaken. During my encounter with these traders, I was expecting to hear favorable comments this time but to my surprise and dismay, I’ve heard the same complaints and found out that there were more problems encountered by these exhibitors.

This column wishes to express and share these statements from our beleaguered entrepreneurs who felt they were being used as “milking cow” by those with uncaring personalities… the organizers.

“Booth rentals are too expensive. Paid Security Fee with another from booth rental. There are not enough amenities such as free use of comfort rooms and safe parking spaces for delivery vehicles, plate numbers of our delivery services were confiscated by policemen. These are additional problems on our part. However, with the difficulty of life, we took this invitation as a gamble. Many of us borrowed money to join, hoping to earn extra income for our families and explored possible business partners and investors”.

“With the circumstances we are in, most of us cannot recover what we have shelled out because few prospective clients come to the Market Encounter. For us traders who come from other provinces and in addition with high booth rental, we have to pay expensive lodging, food and salaries of our helpers. Many of us will go home empty handed and frustrated.

Honestly, the capital that we used for this event was acquired through loans, additional taxes such as paying another registration fee of P500 and P100 daily percentage tax to BIR will surely add up to our misery.”

“Our experience at the Market Encounter brings us the feeling that we are being used as a “milking cow.” It is contradictory for one to organize a trade fair, collect entrance fees at the gates will deter prospective clients. We expected the organizers to help us draw as many clients as can be. We view the entrance fee collection and additional tax collections are expressions of insatiable greed.”

“We were not informed beforehand that we will pay additional taxes when we were invited to participate in the Market Encounter 2010. Had there been an orientation with regards to rules and collection of daily taxes, we could have expressed our concerns and could have made better decisions whether to join this affair or not.”

It is our understanding that the Market Encounter is not an ordinary “tiangge”. The Market Encounter is used as one of the attractions of Baguio City, drawing visitors, investors and buyers to the city. The Market Encounter is supposed to be an exhibit of registered MSMEs who have special products which may be a representation of cultural or regional creativity or innovation. This time we observed that the organizers allowed participants who sell products from Divisoria.

2010 Panagbenga Festival is over. Market Encounter came to an end. Did the whole process and conduct of the activity conform to its concept and objectives? Did it give satisfaction to both the organizer as well as to the traders? Well, considering the aforecited appeal of discontentment, there are people out there, particularly the micro entrepreneurs who in their high expectations will earn extra income during this festival but only to find out that some of them will go home empty handed... and nothing to pay their loans.

Well, it is high time for the concerned agencies and organizers to evaluate if the Market Encounter project is really helping the MSMES improve their economic status in conformity with its goals and in accordance with the Trade Fair Ordinance. It is the MSMES firm belief that the Market Encounter is “not a one sided-project” or a “win-loss” tandem but a “win-win” partnership.

The 15th Panabenga Festival is over with so much to celebrate. To the organizers, CONGRATULATIONS for a job well done! It was a great success. Millions of people… people of all walks of life regardless of age and gender... came to join us with merriment in their hearts.