ARMM now ecozone ‘halal hub’
COTABATO – Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has declared the Polloc Freeport and Ecozone in Parang town in Maguindanao province as ‘halal hub’, the first truly halal ecozone in the country.
“The ARMM government is continually working to open the possibilities to the halal market in the region as well as in the country that serves as a gateway to the multi-trillion dollar halal industry,” Gov. Hataman said.
The declaration of a halal economic zone will attract local and foreign investors to export and import halal products and services. Aleem Guiapal, ARMM’S economic zone authority (REZA) executive director, said a declared halal ecozone becomes halal-industry ready and industry investments would be fully supported.
Guiapal noted that REZA continues to forge stronger partnerships with potential investors. Halal is an Arabic word meaning permissible based on Islamic Sharia law and the term can cover both goods – such as foods, drinks, medicines, clothing and cosmetics – and services as well as places.
“We see tremendous opportunities here in the region. So now, we want to differentiate our market on the other economic zones in the Philippines,” Guiapal said. “The declaration is considered a medium to attaining the vision of a sustainable ARMM economy,” Guiapal added.
“We, in Muslim Mindanao, should seize the opportunity as the halal market worldwide is continuously growing,” he said .
Ecozones are selected areas with highly developed, or which have the potential to be developed into, agri-industrial, industrial, tourist/ recreational, commercial, banking, investment and financial centers. Having halal ecozones in the ARMM means it would open opportunities to the region as well as to the country for the growing global halal industry.
A worldwide study conducted two years ago by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with Dinar Standard noted the global halal market in 2018 would reach $1.6 trillion with an annual growth rate of 6.9%.
Among the potential markets for Mindanao-produced halal foods are Middle East countries, Singapore as well as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines under the East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
With these exciting opportunities, Guiapal said the region is still facing challenges. “We still need to continually capacitate our experts, the halal-certifying bodies and in terms of technical know-how and operations to run a halal hub,” he said.
In the region, outside of the Polloc Freeport, REZA’S list also included the facility of B.J. Coco Oil Mill, a firm operating in Zambonga peninsula and in Sulu, as an ecozone. Coco Oil Mill’s port, however, is currently not operating.
Other planned ARMM ecozones are located in Bongao, Tawi-tawi; Jolo, Sulu; Malabang; Lanao del Sur; Marawi City in Lanao del Sur; and in Basilan.
As early as 10 years ago, Polloc Port has been identified as priority area in hosting halal-related enterprises but this was not officially declared and did not receive adequate push from the government.
Ishak Mastura, then ARMM trade and industry secretary and now chairman of the Regional Board of Investments, said in August 2006 that a halal chicken poultry project under the BIMPEAGA cooperation will be hosted by the Polloc Freeport.
Recently, REZA conducted a round table ecozone consultation with the ARMM local government units. ARMM Executive Secretary Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia in her opening remarks cited the importance of ecozone development in the ARMM.
REZA is mandated to oversee the integration, coordination, planning and monitoring of special economic zones, industrial estate/parks, export processing zones and other economic zones in the ARMM.