MANILA – Malaysian investors are bullish on increasing bilateral trade relations with the Philippines but the negative perception on Mindanao is the "biggest challenge" preventing businesses from expanding in the south, Malaysia's Trade Minister said on Monday.
“There’s a perception that Mindanao is not a safe area, but from our friends in [the] Philippines, it is not as bad as it is made out to be by the media,” Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said in an exclusive interview with ANC’s The Boss.
“I hope we can talk to each other to find out more about the situation in Mindanao,” he added.
Mohamed said there’s a huge trade potential when it comes to halal products and the palm oil industry in the southern part of the Philippines.
Malaysia and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are in the “early stages” of talks to enhance the halal industry in the country, which includes the development of a manufacturing facility for halal goods in Mindanao.
“There’s been a big increase in trade between the two countries and we believe the potential is huge given the growth in your economy and the growing middle class,” he explained.
While Malaysian investors are still in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to Mindanao, the trade official is focused on increasing trade activities in other sectors such as construction, infrastructure, hospitality, banking, legal services and information and technology.
He said Malaysian construction firms are in a good position to take part in the government’s massive Build, Build, Build program.
When asked about the potential to bid as the third telco player, Mohamed said Malaysian telecommunications company Axiata has the capability, expertise and experience to do so.
Malaysia Promotion Programme
Mohamed is currently in Manila to promote the Malaysia Promotion Programme.
The Filipino's love for Malaysian goods, such as the Julie's Hersheys cookies and waffles, could accelerate trade relations between the two countries, he said.
“Hypermarkets and consumers in this country have a liking for Malaysian products. Our products are considered to be high-quality so there’s huge potential to grow more,” he said.
Mohamed said he's here to promote mutually beneficial trade relations.
In fact, the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines will be bringing Filipino companies to Malaysia to promote local products, he said.
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