By Zairina Zainudin
He said greater international connectivity has created tremendous demand for Halal products and services in the country, often called the ‘Pearl of the Orient Seas’.
“There are a lot of business opportunities in the Philippines given our strategic location as a gateway to the Middle East as well as other countries.
“We would like to learn from Malaysia and if possible seek a partnership with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) on how we can collaborate and expand the Halal market here,” he told BERNAMA in an interview.
Reyes said apart from food and beverages, Malaysian investors and SMEs could venture into other Halal areas such as pharmaceuticals, herbal medicines, poultry and livestock, and airline in-flight services.
On incentives, he said the Philippine government plans to create a ‘Free Port Zone’ to locate all interested companies’ buildings, machinery and other assets.
The companies’ export-oriented activities will be exempted from any tax as long as they run their businesses in the country, he said.
“We’re doing this for trade liberalisation, and businesses must be located in this area,” he said, adding the move would provide long-term benefit to all parties involved.
He said three potential areas have been identified, including Mindanao, one of the Philippines’ two focus areas in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Reyes was in Kuala Lumpur last month as the Senior Official representing the Philippines at a BIMP-EAGA meeting, which was attended by some 200 delegates, including 55 from the Philippines.
BIMP-EAGA, launched in 1994, is an initiative to close the development gap within its four member countries and across ASEAN, focusing on the underdeveloped and geographically remote areas.
The sub-regional group covers the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; the Brunei sultanate; Mindanao island and Palawan province in the Philippines; and Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, West Papua and Papua provinces in Indonesia.