THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is seeking closer business relationships with its counterparts in neighbors like Malaysia to develop the domestic halal industry, touting such cooperation as a possible driver of the economic recovery.

“It is critical at this point that we maximize our relationships with our counterparts in other countries, especially our neighbors so that we can underpin our economic recovery with a robust and mutually beneficial business and economic partnership in the region,” PCCI President Benedicto V. Yujuico said in an online consultation with its Mindanao chambers Monday.

He said the agriculture sector offers opportunities in developing a domestic halal industry.

“With close cooperation with Malaysia, we may be able to penetrate the global market, which is estimated to be in the billions of dollars and the business and economic benefits this can bring will go beyond the borders of Mindanao as opportunities for MSMEs (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises) in other parts of the country can be generated as well.”

Romeo M. Montenegro, deputy executive director of the Mindanao Development Authority, said that the country can continue to participate in sub-regional trade.

He said BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) ultimately connects the Philippines to the Middle Eastern and other global markets.

“What can be value added? What can be complemented in terms of our products by our neighbors and directed towards the bigger market?” he said.

He added that Mindanao must focus on developing farm-to-market roads, bridges, and highways to connect production areas to export gateways.

While Malaysia continues to ban the entry of foreigners from countries with high COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases, BIMP-EAGA Malaysian Business Council Chairman Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamed in the same online event said that their country chooses to focus on maintaining its health standards.

“Only when one is healthy can we go to pursue our economic prosperity,” he said. “Please do not get emotional over this decision. It is for our own good.” — Jenina P. Ibañez