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Birthday wish, big dreams for new Phl trade attaché to HK

18 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Vice Consul Mabalot is welcomed to the Consulate by Consul General Raly Tejada

The Philippines has reopened its trade office in Hong Kong recently with a youthful former private litigation lawyer assigned the job of seeking more trading and investment opportunities with one of its top trading partners in the world.

For Commercial Attaché and Vice Consul Roberto Mabalot Jr., the task is a realization of a desire to help his people on a macro level through government service.

Mabalot, who fortuitously turns 35 today, Jun 18, explains this goal by citing as an example what a big company that he can attract to invest in the Philippines can do by bringing in new revenue for the government and generating jobs for Filipino workers.

Mabalot arrived in Hong Kong on May 1, but officially took up the post as representative of the Department of Trade and Industry on May 17.

As the point man in the Philippine Trade and Investment Center at the Consulate, Mabalot said that he is single-handedly doing all trade-related activities while re-establishing the PTIC in Hong Kong.

“Previously, the post was open but then it was closed sometime in the 2000s and basically we’re reopening it,” said Mabalot, who has jurisdiction over Hong Kong and Macau.

Trade matters with Hong Kong were previously handled by the PTIC Guangzhou some 130 kilometers north, as the government focused on strengthening bilateral trade relations with China, where three of the DTI’s 29 PTICs in foreign cities.

“Basically, I’m the one who represents the DTI, so all the trade-related activities, I do. So, if there are exporters from the Philippines who would like to find out any requirements here in Hong Kong or would like to be matched with distributors here, I assist them by linking them with the proper departments,” said Mabalot.

If it’s a big foreign firm that is planning to invest in the Philippines, he said he “handholds” the investor to make sure it succeeds in setting up in the country due to the investment and the jobs it could bring.
Mabalot says he wants to serve the Philippines on a bigger scale through trade with HK and Macau

Secretary Ramon Lopez realized the importance of Hong Kong as a trading partner when he saw the large volume of exports by Filipino manufacturers to this city, said Mabalot.

Citing trade statistics for January to November 2018, he said from Manila’s perspective, Hong Kong was second only to the United States in the volume of Philippine exports it had absorbed. Conversely, the Philippines was only the 11th biggest importer of Hong Kong products. 

Pindutin para sa detalye

Hong Kong imports from the Philippines, led by electrical and electronic equipment, reached US$9.97 billion in 2019, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade.

“Last year, umakyat ang economy as the second-fastest emerging market sa ASEAN.
During the term of President Duterte, trade has improved but, of course, naapektuhan din sa covid,” he said.

Mabalot said the Philippines is asking the Hong Kong side it they could form a joint economic committee for further trade.
“We’re just waiting for the response of Hong Kong,” he said.

“Hong Kong has been and will always be an important trading partner of the Philippines.”

Aside from pushing bilateral trade between the Philippines and Hong Kong, the attache said the DTI is looking at how it can provide help to displaced OFWs in setting up small businesses that will provide them a living, Mabalot said.

He said there are 1,000 Negosyo Centers in the country that work with DTI in providing assistance and training to aspiring OFW entrepreneurs.
DTI is said to be looking at ways to help displaced OFWs start their own businesses
Mabalot was a lawyer in private practice who had his own law office in Baguio City before he joined DTI two years ago. He said he has taken a leave from private practice to fulfil his dream of helping Filipinos.

At DTI, he belongs to a small group of officers called Foreign Trade Service Corps from which the department draws those it assigns to posts abroad. This is his first overseas assignment. 

Mabalot, who is single, obtained his BS Psychology and Bachelor of Law degrees from St Louis University in Baguio. Then he took up Master of Laws at San Beda College in Manila.

The diplomat who is called Vice Consul Bobby by staff at the Consulate, is also a licensed teacher and a practising psychometrician (an expert who designs and interprets tests that measure psychological values such as aptitude, ability, etc) who says he has many plans to accomplish at the macro level, while serving the government.

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