In 2015, then Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez—in a talk with editors and reporters of the Philippines Graphic, BusinessMirror, View Magazine, Pilipino Mirror, TV9 and CNN Philippines—confirmed that the DoT is already training the Bangsamoro in all aspects of tourism.
The DOT training program for the Bangsamoro included the creation of a tourism development plan for each tourist area and capability building on tourist-driven businesses like the running of a resort or establishment of a home-stay program.
Jimenez said at that time that the MILF’s Department of Tourism will become fully functional once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed.
He added that the BBL will make legal the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the Bangsamoro political entity and shall specify the wealth- and power-sharing arrangements between the national government and the Bangsamoro.
One of the major thrusts of the proposed MILF Tourism Department is the development of halal tourism. Halal refers to all things lawful or permissible under Sharia’h (Islamic Law)
Travel experts claim that halal tourism can provide needed jobs and eventually bring prosperity and peace to the economically poor, strife-torn, but nature-blessed provinces of Mindanao. These include: Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi—all possessing wide, untouched, white-sand beaches; the pink beaches of Big and Little Sta. Cruz islands in Zamboanga City; serene Lake Sebu in South Cotabato; lush nature parks, virgin springs, and mountain retreats in Bukidnon; world-class surfing sites in Surigao, and whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro, among others.
DIVERSE, HUGE MARKET
Today, even as the BBL is still to be passed, the Philippine government is going full blast in building the foundations for a halal economy that aims to provide job, livelihood, and trade opportunities for the nation’s 11 million Muslims, representing 11% of the Philippine population.
DTI figures peg the global population of Muslims at 2.14 billion in 2016. It is expected to grow to 2.18 billion in 2017. Of these, about 32.43% (1.4 billion) are in Asia.
World Muslim population translates to a $3.2 trillion halal industry worldwide. It is expected to increase to $10 trillion by 2030.
In its “The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2017/18,” the Dinar Standard, a New York-based research and advisory firm specializing in the Islamic world, said “awareness about the concept of halal is on the rise, and companies are responding to these consumer needs, be it for products or services.”
“Halal food is the largest and most diverse sector of the Islamic Economy. New entrants have come into the market and product offerings have firmly moved beyond meat-focused to include candy, ready-made meals, snacks, and children’s food,” the report stated.
Dinar Standard added that in 2016, Muslims around the world spent a total of $169 billion for halal travel, $254 billion (halal clothing), $198 billion (halal media and recreation), $83 billion (halal pharmaceuticals), and $57.4 billion (halal cosmetics).
But of this huge global Halal market, DTI Assistant Secretary Abdulgani Mactoman said the Philippines only represents 5% of the global halal trade.
Efforts to increase Philippine participation in the halal sector took off in 2015 with the passage of Republic Act 10817, also known as the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Program.
The law created the Halal Board composed of the secretary of Trade and Industry as chairperson and the secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) as Vice chairperson, with the secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), secretary of the Department of Health (DOH), secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and two Muslim-Filipino professionals with experience in Halal industry development as members.
As lead agency in the promotion of the Philippine halal industry, the DTI’s Philippine Accreditation Bureau (PAB) is tasked with developing the national halal certification scheme that will contain the official guidelines for providing accreditation to all Philippine halal-certification bodies.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), for its part, initiated the Halal Science and Technology Program to provide a scientific and innovative approach that will ensure a competent certification process that adopts a Unified Global Halal Standard.
Dr. Zenaida Hadji Raof Laidan, DOST Regional Director for Region 12, stressed the importance of genuine branding of halal products to tap the lucrative, global halal Market.
“The world halal market is a lucrative market. Considering that we are a non-Islamic country, we have to ensure that our products are 100% Halal. DOST has oversight of all laboratories in the Philippines. Our fees are lower than the private sector because we are subsidized by the government. The past few months, we were able to develop more than 60 products in Central Mindanao from SMEs interested to engage in Halal business,” Dr. Laidan said.
DOST Region 12 has a Halal laboratory in Cotabato City. It seeks to promote Halal products—from food to medicine, clothing and cosmetics—not only among Muslim provinces, but throughout the country.
“DOST Central Mindanao has promised support for developing halal premium brand to ensure the integrity of locally-made halal products,” said Director Arturo G. Valero of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region 11.
Last January 18 and 19, the DOST held the World Halal Assembly Philippines (WHAP), a two-day marathon conference on developing the halal premium brand through science, technology, and innovation.
International halal experts, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, partners in the academe, as well as government and non-government bodies came together to discuss and address challenges facing the global halal market.
Science and Technology Secretary Fortunate Dela Peña welcomed the delegates to the conference and emphasized the importance of science and innovation in developing premium halal brands.
“To help improve the halal industry in the country, the DOST provides laboratory testing, technology training, and human resource development,” Dela Peña said.
Mufti Mustafa Ceric, President of the Senate, Bosniak Academy of Science and Arts in Bosnia, acknowledged the significant role of media practitioners in spreading the word for halal.
“What I wish as a Muslim is for halal not to be for Muslims alone. I want halal products to appeal even to non-Muslims. The whole idea of Halal is to be clean and healthy,” he said.
Foreign experts are one in saying that the Philippines is in a good position to be a Halal hub in Asia.
“There is a huge opportunity for the Philippines to be a hub of the halal industry, not only as a product industry, but as a financial hub as well. But the Philippines must come up with its own halal scheme. It is in a good position to make this happen especially with more support from the government,” they said. G