SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman officially declared the Polloc Freeport and Ecozone in Parang, Maguindanao as “halal hub,” the first real 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 regional economic zone authority (REZA) executive director, said a declared halal ecozone becomes halal -industry ready and industry investments would be fully supported.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning permissible based on Islamic Shari’ah law and the term can cover both goods – such as food, 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 from the other economic zones in the Philippines,” Guiapal said.
“The declaration is considered a means to attain the vision of a sustainable ARMM economy,” Guiapal added.
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, according to the REZA executive director.
A worldwide study conducted two years ago by Thompson 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 percent.
Among the potential markets for Mindanao-produced halal foods are Middle East countries, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines under the East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
However, even with these exciting opportunities, Guiapal said the region is still facing challenges.
“We still need to continually enable 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 includes 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 in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; Jolo, Sulu; Malabang, Lanao del Sur; Marawi City in Lanao del Sur; and in Basilan.
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, Regional Board of Investments chairman, has said that Polloc Freeport will host a halal chicken poultry project under the BIMP-EAGA cooperation.