Qatar businessmen keen on Islamic finance in PH

Published November 9, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Qatari businessmen are pushing for the planned cooperation on Islamic banking with the Philippines as they looked into collaboration in fintech, agro industrial ventures, furniture manufacturing, renewable energy, and industrial parks development in Mindanao.

                Greg Loayon, Chairman of the Philippine Business Council Qatar, said during the Mindanao-wide Ecozone Summit cited lots of potential synergies between Qatar and the Philippines highlighting earlier talks with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to explore collaboration on Islamic finance.

                “There is also a potential, and inward focus into the Philippines from Qatar, around the area of Islamic finance or Islamic banking,” he said. 

                The BSP earlier said that one of the challenges of developing Islamic banking is the lack of Shari’ah scholars or Islamic finance experts in the country to make this happen as soon as possible.

         Shari’ah, which defines a set of rules and the lslamic financial system, refers to the practical divine law deduced from its legitimate sources such as the Qur’an, Sunnah, consensus of Muslim scholars, analogical sources of lslamic law.

The BSP also noted the lack of tax neutrality.

          “The biggest challenge is the low awareness and capacity on lslamic banking and finance not only for the regulators but also for the industry players and other stakeholders,” according to the BSP. For this reason, BSP said, a law mandates the government to provide programs for increased consumer awareness and capacity building required by the expanded lslamic banking system.

                Loayon highlighted the need for Islamic bank in the Philippines as he raised interest by Qataris and other Arab investors in establishing fintech hubs in the Philippines as well as in the ecozones in Qatar, which he said is quite focus on fintech. The fintech hub coloration could take advantage of the Philippine talent in terms of providing software and development support.

                He said Arab investors are looking at expanding the fintech hubs to Mindanao noting that the Philippines’ over 290 industrial parks are mostly located in Luzon.

                With the global health crisis, he said, the fintech industry is expected to further accelerate its significance in the area of global finance.

                In addition, there had been earlier discussion between Arab and Filipino businessmen for renewable energy ventures in Mindanao. “I think there are a lot of players, not only in the Middle East, but also from Europe around renewable energy business particularly solar energy and wind energy,” he said.

He also noted of potential complementary ventures in the areas of agro industrial projects with Qatari and Filipino companies and in partnership with local government units in the country. 

                “Over the last couple of years, there have been focus on food resiliency. For Qatar there were instances where PEZA had made a presentation on supporting resiliency for Qatar in Doha itself with the visit of Director General Charito B. Plaza in Qatar a couple of years ago,” he said.

                Meantime, Joseph Rivera, special adviser to PEZA DG in Qatar, said they have presented a proposal for a 1,000 hectare ecozone in Mauban, and a 350 hectare retirement village and a 1,100 hectare agro industrial tourism in Guimaras.  They are also looking at a 300-hectare wellness tourism ecozone in Tagaytay along the Taal Lake.

Rivera said they are planning to bring in a group of Qatari investors to the Philippines in the first quarter next year.

He cited that the appetite at the moment is mainly for agro industrial food processing, furniture IT and fintech.