From Bohol to Cebu

NEWLY installed Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Cebu Director Elena Arbon is no stranger to Cebu’s trade and commerce.

Her 10-year stint as the DTI Provincial Director of Bohol, one of Cebu’s staunch supporters in many entrepreneurship programs, has helped her familiarize the way around the industries, even those that aren’t present yet in Bohol.

“I am excited for Cebu, because I have a lot of ideas (to share),” said Arbon, who has been in the position for more than a week now.

She’s been meeting with DTI-Cebu officials to play catch-up with the different programs being implemented, especially for the province’s priority sectors.

Former DTI-Cebu Provincial Director Nelia Navarro moved up the ladder and is now the assistant regional director of DTI 7. The movement has prompted the transfer of Arbon to Cebu.

“DTI Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya decided to transfer me here because she thinks Bohol has grown too small for me,” she said.

After her brief work in a local government unit in Dumaguete, the accountancy graduate of Siliman University opted to work in DTI in 1982. Since then, she blossomed from a division chief for business development in Dumaguete for more than 20 years to provincial director in Siquijor for two years and Bohol for 10 years.

“I spent more than 30 years in DTI. Technically, this is my first job after graduation,” she said, admitting that she worked in an LGU to keep her busy while waiting for the results of her licensure examination.

Instead of working in a bank, Arbon said she chose to work in DTI, a decision she’s been happy about since day one.

“It is different working in DTI. Personally, I don’t like routine jobs. That’s why I’m here. Working in this agency is always exciting. You get to learn new things every day and you get to meet a lot of new people every day. Plus, this agency helps unleash the creativity in you,” she said.

“You have the freedom to own projects,” she added.

One of Arbon’s biggest projects in Bohol was the establishment of the country’s first Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) Shared Service Facility (SSF) at the Bohol Island State University (Bisu).

This P9.15-million project funded by the DTI, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Bisu and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention that allows local manufacturers to make prototypes and products such as equipment, machinery and electronic gadgets; create scale models, illustrate graphic designs and mass-produce products among others.

“The Bohol FabLab has been doing well. I hope to see the same success here in Cebu as we open our first FabLab here, hopefully by June, in UP Cebu in Lahug,” she said.

Under her leadership, Arbon envisions to connect Cebu-based industries through the value-chain approach, a strategy she found effective in helping, not only industries, but also allowing micro, small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) to take part in the whole operation.

“Programs of the priority sectors will continue, but we will inject the value-chain approach to help meet targets of these sectors,” she said.

The priority sectors of Cebu province include tourism (which covers processed food, homestyle/ gifts, decorations and housewares, souvenirs, wearables and fashion accessories); coffee; cacao; coco-based products; agri-fishery products; furniture and furnishings; processed food (meat, marine products and delicacies); health and wellness; creative; shipbuilding; and processed fruits and nuts.

Local digital innovators have also found a champion in DTI as the new DTI-Cebu chief promised to also support the growing community of digital startups.

“We will explore opportunities in information and technology (IT)- based startups to create a stronger ecosystem here,” she said. Arbon is set to meet the stakeholders of Cebu’s startup community.

Given the level of job stress in government jobs, especially for an agency like the DTI, whose nature of work is fast-evolving, Arbon shared that she enjoys the pleasures of reading a good book and some retail therapy.

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