Philippines: Peza eyes Qatar as investment partner in halal hubs, other sectors

Peter Alagos – Gulf Times

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) is currently identifying areas to be developed as halal hubs for potential investors from the Middle East, particularly in Qatar, an official announced in a virtual conference held on Thursday.

In her keynote address during the “Philippine-Qatar Investment Forum 2020”, Peza director general Charito B Plaza underscored the latest sustained and strategic business opportunities across ecozones in the Philippines in the fields of eco-, medical, and wellness tourism; halal food processing; Islamic finance; IT and business process outsourcing (BPO), and agro-industrial exports.

This was echoed by Bureau of Muslim Economic Affairs director Saleha Sacar in a presentation that highlighted the importance of investments on halal hubs, as well as the promotion of Islamic finance as part of the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan.

Plaza also updated prospective investors on the expanded benefits and advantages on investing in the Philippines either as an ecozone developer or locator. She invited Qatari businessmen to invest in “island-city developments,” with up to 75-year leaseholds, as well as in education and technology ecozones similar to Qatar Foundation’s Education City.

She stressed that despite the pandemic, Peza remained “100% Covid-19-free,” offering competitive incentives, such as tax holidays and zero customs duties. Peza is the Philippines largest one-stop-shop government agency accounting for 64% of the country’s exports, contributing to 16.28% of the country’s GDP, Plaza noted.

During the event, Philippine commercial attache Charmaine Yalong discussed the current trade and investment relations between the Philippines and Qatar. She emphasised that both countries have “promising potential” in investments relations.

Yalong said Qatar ranks as the 38th market for Philippine exports, valued at $55.19mn in 2019, while Philippine imports from Qatar stood at $147.99mn in the same year.

In the same conference, Philippine Business Council-Qatar (PBC-Q) president Greg Loayon stressed that Covid-19 “has put companies on an even playing field wherever they may be in the world, irrespective of industry.”

“As such, the call of the times is for companies to embrace the new normal where technology will now play a bigger role in the world of business. Peza, therefore, is in the right space by being early in embracing this and reaching out to a global audience as they have today. The Philippine Business Council, as Peza’s Investment Promotions Partner in the Middle East and Europe, looks forward to more collaborations,” Loayon stressed.

Peza Investment Promotions Partner for the Middle East Joseph Timothy Rivera said the virtual event witnessed the participation of Qatari and Filipino entrepreneurs based in Qatar, with representatives from various international business councils and some major companies in Qatar, and other business groups from neighbouring GCC countries.

Rivera also presented the highlights of recent Arab business delegations to the Philippines. He invited all participants for the next business mission to the Philippines either in November 2020 or in April 2021.

He added that the business delegations provide organised immersions to various Philippine business and government institutions and on-site visits to potential ecozone sites by potential investors.

With the theme ‘Business Continuity Post Covid-19 Outbreak’, Peza organised the online forum, in coordination with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, the Philippine Trade & Investment Centre for the Middle East, and the PBC-Q.