Philippines and Brunei explore improving linkages

MANILA, Philippines — The government has reinitiated talks with Brunei Darussalam to further develop linkages and supply chains between the two nations, including the sultanate’s possible investments into several proposed private-public partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects.

Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, who was in Brunei recently with the Philippine economic team, said the talks centered around strategies to lock in the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area) as a sub-regional economic bloc, specifically on setting up commercial sea lanes to improve supply channels.

“We import a lot of stuff from Brunei (such as) construction materials and food. It’s good for us to seek more opportunities, but of course, we also like to invite (Philippine) businesses to invest in Brunei and we also want to get (Brunei) interested in our PPPs,” said Domingo.

The DTI chief said specifics on PPP talks were still casual and more on the exploratory side. The meetings and discussions, however, generated much interest on improving linkages in the BIMP-EAGA.

“We talked about developing linkages such as sea lanes. This is very important since once you’ve developed the sea and air transportation then business will follow. (Specifically) we discussed which part of Mindanao we will link,” said Domingo.

The DTI also pushed for expansion of the halal certification with Brunei. Halal, an Arabic word that allows permissible exchange under Islamic law, is a huge market estimated to worth around $2.3 trillion.

According to Domingo, “we already produce a lot of halal products and it’s good if we can get certification (from Brunei) or to have a certified cooperation with them, either we can get certification as domestic manufacturers or we can produce it and ship it to them for additional processing and then they’ll tag it.” To date, there are about 5,000 Philippine products that are halal certified.