By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Philippines is looking at Malaysia for the development of the local Halal industry, revival of the Barter Trade in Mindanao and the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area) trade route.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez raised this at the opening of the Philippines-Malaysia Business Forum attended by visiting Malaysia Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad.
“These are the other trade areas that our two nations can concentrate on,” Lopez said.
“Given that Malaysia is regarded as a leader for Halal, and how the barter trade can benefit our neighboring towns, I am confident that we can have a fruitful discussion on these matters today.”
The Duterte administration has pushed for the revival of the Barter Trade in Mindanao as a way to help drum up economic activities in the country’s second largest island, especially in Zamboanga.
Already, Malaysia has consistently been one of the Philippines’ strong trade partners, being the country’s 10th largest trading partner with a total bilateral trade at $6B. Malaysia has also been Philippines’ 11th major export market and 9th top import supplier.
In terms of investments, Lopez said, among the Philippines’ top sources of approved foreign investments, Malaysia posted the highest growth rate in 2017-2018.
This was largely because there are already many Malaysian companies present here in partnerships with local firms.
With that, Malaysia is now the Philippines’ 5th largest source of approved foreign investments last year, next to China, Singapore, Japan, and British Virgin Islands. Approved foreign investments from Malaysia amounted to P15 billion or $290 million, accounting for 8.2 percent of total approved investments in 2018.
“And we seek to develop more business matches with today’s meeting,” Lopez said.
With the Duterte administration prioritizing on the promotion of investments in infrastructure development, Lopez expressed hope to engage with Malaysia’s infrastructure and engineering firms MTD Group, Muhibbah Engineering, and Budi Technology, among others, which were part of the Malaysian business delegation at the forum.
Lopez cited CIMB Bhd. for launching early this year the CIMB Bank Philippines with its flagship branch in Bonifacio Global City. Another Malaysian company, MR. D.I.Y., opened its first store in the Philippines last January 5. And phase 1 of AlloyMTD Philippines’ project—the National Government Administrative Center (NGAC)—in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac—is set to rise on schedule.
Philippine conglomerates are also making inroads in Malaysia. For example, Ayala Land is a majority shareholder in MCT. Aboitiz Equity Ventures’ food subsidiary, Pilmico International, is now operating in Malaysia after acquiring a majority stake in Gold Coin Management Holdings. Likewise, Jollibee held a grand opening of its milestone store in Malaysia last February 20.
Lopez then urged Philippine companies to find more opportunities in Malaysia. “Steel Asia, Zuellig, and Sterling Group can benefit from Malaysia’s focus on manufacturing. Meanwhile, San Miguel, Universal Robina, and Zest-O Group can take advantage of their processing of agricultural produce and manufacturing-related services,” he said.
On top of that, Lopez cited potential partnerships and trade opportunities between the two countries in the agriculture and IT sectors.
The Philippines is interested in pushing for agriculture, processing of high-value and value-added products and services, as well as technology and innovation that would address the 4th Industrial Revolution, Lopez said.