Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Restaurants Urged To Become Muslim-Friendly


Restaurants Urged To Become Muslim-Friendly


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The Department of Tourism (DOT) is encouraging restaurants to become Halal certified as it expects more Muslim tourists to visit the Philippines after securing the “emerging Muslim-friendly destination” title for another year.

In a Bagong Pilipinas interview on Tuesday, DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar said the DOT is set to issue a memorandum circular to recognize Filipino food businesses that are classified either as “Muslim-friendly” or “Halal-certified”.

“Aside from the Halal expo, we have other programs and are pushing for Muslim-friendly accommodation and Muslim-friendly restaurants,” she said.

She said the DOT hopes to issue this circular by the end of 2024.

For “Muslim-friendly” classification, part of the proposed guidelines is that a restaurant must not serve pork or if they do, it must not be served together with the rest of the food offering.

This is different from Halal-certified restaurants that get their certification from a third-party certifier after passing a rigorous inspection and verification process to ensure they adhere to Islamic dietary laws.

“Medyo tedious at expensive magpa-Halal certify talaga kaya ine-encourage namin para hindi masyadong mabigat, maging Muslim-friendly muna. Pero ‘yong kaya naman maging Halal-certified na, pwede na silang magpa-certify (Getting Halal-certified is quite tedious and expensive so we want to encourage them to at least be Muslim-friendly first. But those who can get certified already should do so),” Valderrosa-Abubakar said.

She said getting this DOT-recognition would be worth it given the Muslim market in the Philippines alone.

“If you think about the Filipino Muslims living in the country, sila pa lang market mo na. If they have the choice, of course, they’d go for the Muslim-friendly or Halal-certified restaurant. That alone may market ka na (they alone are already a market. If they have a choice, of course, they would go for the Muslim-friendly or Halal-certified restaurant. In that alone, you have a market already),” she said.

Foreign Muslim visitors to the country, meanwhile, have risen from 223,345 in 2022 to 5,450,577 in 2023.

If restaurants wanted to tap into this market, Valderrosa-Abubakar said they have to take initiative.

“Nakikita ng mga stakeholders natin na baka mahina naman ang ROI [return of investment] pero parang chicken and egg ito. Hindi sila (Muslims) pupunta kung wala tayong maio-offer sa kanila (Some of our stakeholders think that the return of investment will be slow here but this is like chicken and egg. They wont come if we don’t have anything to offer to them),” she said.

“Marami nang pumupunta dito na palaging kami (ang nasasabihan) na wala naman kayong mga Halal restaurants. We do have them but normally they are located in hotels and some are owned by foreigners (There are visitors who come here but would often ask where are the Halal restaurants? We do have them but normally they are located in hotels and some are owned by foreigners),” she said.

Apart from its present initiatives, she said the DOT is also set to come up with a Muslim travelogue to list destinations that are a must-visit to Muslim tourists.

Earlier, Valderrosa-Abubakar said the country targets to attract more nationals from Muslim-dominated states such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East market like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

The official, together with various tourism stakeholders, is in Soccsksargen for the region’s launch of the Philippine Experience Program (PEP): Culture, Heritage & Arts.

Soccsksargen, which stands for South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos, is home to native Halal restaurants being the second most Muslim-populated among the regions in Mindanao.

Last month, the Philippines was named an emerging Muslim-friendly destination by Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2024.

The citation recognizes the country’s effort to boost its capacity to welcome Muslim tourists through various initiatives, including Halal food and integrating Muslim-friendly amenities in major tourist spots. (PNA)