By lovely a. carillo
An official of the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) stressed the huge opportunities available for the Philippines with the development of its halal industry.
IHAF is an independent, non-government network of accreditation entities mandated to enforce Halal standards in their countries and territories.
“The Philippines has the infrastructure and condition that can provide an environment that can compete to international lifestyle of people, it has a huge opportunity if it comes up with halal-certified products,” IHAF Secretary General Mohammed Saleh Badri said during the opening of the three-day 2nd Philippine Halal Trade and Tourism Expo held at a local mall over the weekend. Badri was also one of the guests during the Philippine Halal Trade and Tourism Conference at Seda Abreeza Hotel on May 4.
Badri said the global halal industry is nearing $3 trillion and the development of the country’s halal industry will do well for its economy. He said halal is not just a religious matter but is a preferred way of manufacturing goods and services even among non-Muslims since it is an assurance of safety and quality.
IHAF aims to generate internationally accepted standards for halal assessment by tapping a country’s government and accreditation body and discusswith them the importance of creating a global and harmonized platform for halal products. He said IHAF is committed to help countries with a non-Muslim government.
Badri said the Philippines has a strategic location but it has to establish a proper halal system if it wants to become competitive in the global halal industry. There are many Muslims countries on the lookout for halal products and the Philippines need not look far since Indonesia and Malaysia are its neighbors.
Councilor Jimmy Dureza, chair of the commmittee on trade, commerce and industry, said there is an effort to come up with a standard requirement for the accreditation of halal businesses. He said Davao is a significant player in the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and majority of the residents of the BIMP-EAGA areas are Muslims who prefer halal not only food but also products and services.
“We are opening our doors to international trade and tourism especially as the Philippines is host country of the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The creation of the Davao City Halal Industry Development Council last month is expected to attract more tourists to the city especially those coming from the BIMP-EAGA. The Council aims to ensure the marketability of halal-certified Davao City products in the domestic markets and in countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“We are part of the ASEAN and the BIMP-EAGA and these neighboring countries have Muslim citizens also so if we have a halal council, and establishments that are halal certified it will be easier for us to cater to their needs,” City Tourism Officer Gene Rose Tecson said.
Tecson said they are expecting more visitors to come to the city once they realize that the city is halal-ready. The creation of the Council is also expected to push the city’s bod to become a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) destination. She said there are many opportunities in the halal market but only eight establishments in the city are halal-certified.
“Only one of these eight halal-certified establishments is a catering business and it got most of the customers during the ASEAN event in the city,” she said.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) Davao Region is also bullish about getting a share in the big Middle East tourism market now that the city has more halal-certified offerings.
“There are airlines looking at the possibility of connecting their countries to Davao and the Philippines,” DoT Davao Region Director Roberto Alabado said, This means more tourists from the Middle East may be arriving here soon, he added.
He said President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s recent trip to the Middle East has encouraged more investors from that part of the globe. Davao could be looking at more tourist arrivals from these countries soon especially now that it has established more halal-certified offerings.
“If we have increased connectivity to Dubai and Saudi Arabia then we can have a good marketign strategy to market the Philippines and introduce it to the market as a halal-friendly destination,” he said.
Alabado said they used to have this problem of marketing Davao and the Philippines to the Middle East market because of the lack of halal offerings. Even the travel agencies and operators in the area said they are afraid to send their countrymen here for fear they would go hungry because of the lack of halal-certified restaurants.
“Muslim tourists have to eat in halal-certified restaurants because they cannot just go to KFC everyday when they are here,” he said. He said DOT’s halal program has successfully come up with a list of hotels, restaurant and other establishments that are already halal-certified.
“Now we can sell Davao and the Philippines because we can now present to them a list of halal-certified establishments,” he said.