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MANILA: The Philippines is developing a “halal ecosystem” to try to boost tourism and trade as the country aims for more trade exchanges with Arab and Muslim countries, according to the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos.

There are only about 10 million Muslims among the nearly 120 million predominantly Catholic population of the Philippines, but the country is trying to greatly expand its domestic halal industry.

The government wants to attract 230 billion pesos ($4 billion) in investment and create about 120,000 jobs by 2028 by tapping into the global halal market, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 trillion.

The NCMF, a government agency mandated to promote the rights and welfare of Muslim Filipinos, is central to ensuring that products and initiatives developed within the halal country are in compliance with Islamic regulations.

“Since the NCMF is the only (Islamic) religious institution in the government structure, the NCMF should lead in the implementation of halal programs and activities,” the commission’s new secretary, Sabbudin Abdurahim, told Arab News this week.

“NCMF is now at the forefront of implementing programs and activities for development… Through collaboration with partner stakeholders, we strive to create a halal ecosystem in the Philippines.”

The commission is working with other government agencies – including the Department of Trade, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Tourism – as the Philippines seeks to expand the market presence of its halal-certified products beyond food and beverages and services. , but also travel.

Since the Philippines won the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination award at the 2023 Halal in Travel Global Summit, it has invested heavily in attracting visitors from the Middle East and nearby Muslim countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, particularly by ensuring they have access to halal products and services.

Without the development of a halal ecosystem, many potential visitors from Arab and Muslim countries may choose to visit other countries such as Malaysia “because they are confident that they can easily find halal food, unlike the Philippines,” Abdurahim said.

“If we have halal restaurants here in the Philippines, a lot of visitors from Arab or Muslim countries will come here… Our halal division is already meeting with hotels, restaurants and other establishments (about cooperation).

Abdurahim sees the expansion of the halal industry as beneficial to the entire Philippine society.

“It will benefit not only Muslims in the Philippines but also the economy in general,” he said.

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