Govt. asked to diversify trade mix with OPEC countries through hala

 

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By Rose de la Cruz

 

Instead of just limiting its trade with Middle East oil producers, the government must intensify its halal exports to that region, with the market now estimated at $3.2 trillion.

 

The suggestion was made by Rep. Ron Salo of Kabayan partylist, as he urged the Philippines to leverage the competitiveness of its Halal-certified food products for exports  as one way to diversify and upgrade trade relations with OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) beyond just petroleum. The Department of Trade and Industry estimated the size of the global halal market at $3.2 trillion.

 

To improve the comparative strengths of our halal industry, we must have halal certification offices and agencies in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

 

The way things are now, much of the halal certification work is done in Manila, but the producers of the products are out there in the provinces, especially in Mindanao.

 

The DTI, specifically its Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board should remedy this situation that stifles the growth of our halal products industry, he said.

 

Establish certification field offices. Bring the certification process closer to where the producers are.

 

Target the key urban areas of Mindanao first: Cotabato City, Kidapawan, Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Butuan City, he stressed.

 

It is ideal to have one online repository and access point for all the Philippines’ halal standards, industry information, and halal-certified products and manufacturers.

 

There should be no difference in terms of quality between halal products for export and for domestic consumption.

 

Lastly, there may be a need to harmonize and update the country’s halal standards. Apparently, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos has its own halal standards. The DTI has Republic Act 10817 or the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act which became law in 2016. The Department of Agriculture has Halal Food Industry Development Program Project Management Office and four documents on Halal “Philippine National Standards”. The Food and Drug Administration would also have its own Halal standards.

 

The Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board presented the comprehensive Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Strategic Road Map at the first-ever Philippine National Halal Conference on May 2 and 3 in Davao City.

 

“The strategic road map includes the launch of the approved Philippine National Halal Certification Scheme and the Accreditation Guidelines, two of the most important components of the PH strategic roadmap for the Philippines to be recognized as a major player in the global halal ecosystem,” the Department of Trade and Industry said., Salo said.

 

Govt. told to seize the benefits of FTAs

Meanwhile, the government was urged to tap the benefits of existing free trade agreements and forge new ties “to expand the Philippines export markets.”

 

The National Economic and Development Authority said that alhough the country’s trade recorded high growth (from 22.2 percent imports in April from 0.3 percent in March) owing to increased inbound shipments of capital goods, raw materials and intermediate goods, consumer items and mineral fuels and lubricants exports  fell for a fourth consecutive month in April – by 8.5 percent year on year -- dragged by a decline in non-electronic manufactured products (wood manufactures, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, processed food & beverages, and furniture and fixtures) and agro-based products.

 

The decline was tempered by a 5.5 percent expansion in exports of electronic products, which accounted for 69.1 percent of total exports for the month. The increase in exports of electronic manufactures was led by faster growth of semiconductors (5.3%), compared with the 3.1 percent uptick recorded in the previous month, reflecting the global trend as chip sales worldwide continued to grow at a double-digit pace.

 

With the hefty increase in imports making up for exports’ soft performance, merchandise trade returned to positive growth at 8.8 percent in April 2018, a reversal from March’s 2.7 percent decline.

 

“The current turnout of imports is encouraging. But much has to be done to create an environment that is necessary for exporters to thrive. The signing into law of the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018 is a step in the right direction,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.

 

He explained that the new law could bring down business costs, encourage wider participation among firms, and attract foreign investors—eventually boosting exports in the near to medium term.

In terms of trade facilitation, Pernia said that government efforts are also underway to better link up more agencies to TradeNet, the country’s link to the ASEAN National Single Window, which will enhance intraregional trade.

 

“Seizing the benefits of existing free trade agreements (FTAs) and forging new ties are equally important to expand the market for exports. To make FTAs more beneficial, the government needs to continue to encourage exporters to familiarize themselves with the proper tariff classification of products to find the lowest applicable tariffs as well as apply the rules of origin to avail of zero or lower tariff rates.”

 

“Enhancing trade relations with the country’s non-traditional partners would also contribute highly to the growth of the exports sector,” he added.

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