Philippines: 120,000 jobs, $4 billion investments eyed in ‘Halal-friendly’ drive

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Manila: The Philippines has launched an ambitious “Halal-friendly” push encompassing the multi-billion tourism, food, cosmetics, finance, logistics, services and manufacturing sectors.

This comes following the maiden $1 billion “sukuk” (Sharia-compliant) bond issued by the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) in November – which was five-times oversubscribed – as well as the award bagged by the Philippines as the “Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year” at the prestigious Halal in Travel Global Summit 2023 in June in Singapore.

These two events affirmed the country’s whole-of-government drive towards Halal, which is also one of the most promising sectors in the global market, estimated to reach a staggering $7.7 trillion.

Why Halal Philippines?

The National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) estimates the Muslim population at 10 per cent, or 12 million people.

Within the Philippines itself, there’s a huge domestic market for Halal products: the country imported $120 million (PHP6.67 billion) worth of products that were declared as Halal on the bill of lading.

The Philippine central bank, BSP, has also launched steps to further expand Halal banking and finance in the country.

Under the new thrust, the Philippines’ Halal Board – led by the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) – seeks to widen the campaign to cover a much bigger local and global footprint.

For starters, the new drive aims to double Halal products produced locally to 6,000, draw Php230 billion ($4 billion) in fresh investments, and generate 120,00 local jobs.

The strategic plan is envisioned to bboost the Asian country’s Halal output for both domestic consumption and exports, alongside scaling up Sharia-compliant finance as well as Muslim-friendly tourism.

The Philippines imported more than $112 million (Php6.67 billion) worth of Halal goods in 2022. The new strategy for “Halal-friendly Philippines” seeks to boost the domestic Halal ecosystem, including food production, tourism and investments. Photo shows Muslim Filipinos performing Eid prayers in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. File photo taken July 17, 2015.

Image Credit: Basil V. Sali | Gulf News reader

Healthy and safety-conscious consumers

Studies show that an increasing number of non-Muslim consumers buy or consume food labeled Halal because of safety, cleanliness, suitability for personal health, and hygiene reasons.

‘Asia-Pacific hub’

The Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), under the current Secretary Fred Pascual, is leading the push.

Its stated goal: establish a one-stop shop to link all stakeholders and ensure a “whole-of-government” approach towards the development of a comprehensive Halal “value chain”.

On Tuesday, Sec. Pascual led the unveiling of the four-year Philippine Halal Industry Development Strategic Plan, attended by diplomats from several Muslim countries, at the World Trade Center in Manila.

Philippines Trade and Industry Secretary Fred Pascual, alongside officials from government agencies and diplomats who graced the launch of the Halal Philippines Plan in Manila.

Image Credit: DTI | Supplied

“We are delighted to launch the ‘Halal-friendly Philippines’ campaign. This national initiative aspires to establish the Philippines as a customer-focused, collaborative, comprehensive, and competitive Halal gateway and destination in the Asia-Pacific,” said Secretary Pascual, who also chairs the country’s Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board (Halal Board).

He also added that the strategy is in line with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s “8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda”, which covers the following: (1) food security, (2) improved transportation, (3) affordable and clean energy, (4) health care, (5) social services, (6) education, (7) bureaucratic efficiency, and (8) sound fiscal management.

What is Halal?

Halal is Arabic for “lawful or permissible”. While commonly associated with food, which ensures it neither contains nor has contact (contamination) with anything considered unlawful (haram), it extends beyond food and beverage to encompass all aspects of daily life, forming a comprehensive lifestyle.

Halal also covers finance, travel, modest fashion, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, media and recreation, logistics, marketing, packaging and branding.

‘Go, grow Halal’

From around 3,000 current products, the plan aims to hit 6,000 Halal-certified products from the Philippines to cater to the growing domestic and global Halal demands.

The domestic Halal market itself is huge, given the fact that the local Muslim population in the Philippines bigger than in Thailand and Singapore.

Added to this is is the increasing number of in-bound tourists, exporters and bankers, investors, and health-conscious consumers that form part of the Halal ecosystem.

Halal-friendly tourism

In 2023, visitor arrivals from Islamic or Muslim-populated countries reached almost half a million, comprising 9 per cent of the total 5.45 million arrivals.

Visitors from the Middle East, a significant chunk of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, are among the world’s top spenders.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Middle Eastern travelers spent 6.5 times more than the worldwide average in 2017, with 40 per cent spending more than $10,000 per trip per capita. The average spend is $3,250 for a typical 12-to-13-night trip abroad.

To serve this market, the country‘s Halal tourism drive is also gaining momentum.

Currently, there are 289 Halal-certified or Muslim-friendly accommodation establishments nationwide. That’s in addition to 237 Halal-certified or Muslim-friendly accommodation establishment restaurants, according to the Board.

“Whole-of-government” Halal drive

The Philippines’ Halal Board is composed of the following:

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as chair,
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, as vice chair,
The Department of Agriculture (DA),
Department of Health (DOH),
Department of Science and Technology (DOST),
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),
Department of Tourism (DOT),
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and the
Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and
Two private sector representatives.

Exports

The country is also positioning itself as a Halal food processing hub, from Halal-rated abattoirs to packaging and logistics for export markets with significant Muslim populations.

The Philippines’ exports to Islamic countries have been steadily growing, particularly to Malaysia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Iran, Qatar and Kuwait. In 2021, the top Philippine Exports to leading Halal Markets were fresh bananas ($45 million), pineapple products ($25 million), beauty and cosmetics ($7.3 million), carrageenan ($2.9 million), medicaments ($2 million), crude coconut oil ($942,000), dried mangoes ($97,000), and calamansi/tropical lemon ($34,000).

The plan counts on rising consumer awareness, embrace of multiculturalism and tolerance, growing health and safety concerns, the proliferation of e-commerce, and increasing trade and investments from OIC countries to boost the country’s Halal drive.

Last year, at the 2023 Philippine Halal Economy Festival, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman highlighted the profound significance of Halal.

“Beyond dietary considerations, it provides cultural insight and is integral to our identity,” she said. “Recognising the immense potential for economic growth in the Philippine Halal Economy is long overdue,” she added.

SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES

In 2023, the Philippine economy is estimated to be at pHP24.27 trillion ($435.67 billion), making it the world’s 34th largest by nominal GDP and 14th-largest in Asia, according to the International Monetary Fund.

There are approximately 400 special economic zones (SEZ) in the Philippines, which can be further subdivided into agro-industrial economic zones, manufacturing economic zones, tourism economic zones, IT economic zones, and others.





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