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MANILA: The Philippines is developing a “halal ecosystem” to try to boost tourism and trade as the country focuses on more trade with Arab and Muslim countries, according to the National Commission on Filipino Muslims.

The Philippines, home to almost 120 million people, mostly Catholics, has only about 10 million Muslims, but the country is looking to significantly expand its domestic halal industry.

The government aims to raise 230 billion pesos ($4 billion) in investments and create about 120,000 jobs by 2028, tapping into a global halal market estimated to be worth more than $7 trillion.

The NCMF, a government agency tasked with promoting the rights and welfare of Filipino Muslims, plays a key role in ensuring that products and initiatives developed under the country’s halal program are in compliance with Islamic regulations.

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

“NCMF currently leads the implementation of development programs and activities… Through collaboration with stakeholder partners, we strive to establish a halal ecosystem in the Philippines.”

The commission is working with other government agencies — including the Department of Trade, Department of Agriculture and Department of Tourism — as the Philippines seeks to expand the market presence of its halal-certified products, which includes not only food and beverages and services, but also travel.

Since winning the Emerging Muslim-Friendly Destination Award at the 2023 Halal in Travel Global Summit, the Philippines has invested heavily to attract tourists from the Middle East and nearby Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, particularly by providing them with access to halal products and services.

Without the creation of a halal ecosystem, many potential tourists from Arab and Muslim countries may choose to visit other countries such as Malaysia “because they believe they can easily find halal food there, unlike in the Philippines,” Abdurahim said.

“If we have halal restaurants here in the Philippines, many guests from Arab and Muslim countries will come here… Our halal department is already meeting with hotels, restaurants and other establishments (about cooperation).”

Abdurahim believes that the development of the halal industry will benefit Filipino society as a whole.

“This will benefit not only Muslims in the Philippines but the entire economy,” he said.

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