Brighter Saudi-Mindanao trading seen
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 March) – A recent trade mission to Saudi Arabia
achieved at least nine breakthroughs that could improve the balance of trade
between the two countries which is estimated this year at US$2.77 billion in
favor of the oil-rich kingdom, government and business leaders said in a press
conference at the Marco Polo Hotel here this week.
Merly Cruz, DTI Assistant Secretary and mission head, said they were able to
do it through market matching, investment promotion, market sensing, and
business meetings with overseas Filipino workers.
But the achievements need to be backed with more support to ensure actual
trading, Cruz said.
The Department of Trade and Industry estimated Philippine exports to Saudi
Arabia at US$47 million in the same year.
The 14-member trade mission also met with three of the biggest Arab chambers
of commerce and industry.
The mission considers Saudi Arabia, one of the Top 20 economies of the world
and the largest in the Middle East, as a huge market just waiting to be tapped.
Cruz identified the market to be not just the Arabs but also the 1.4 million
OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
The mission, she said, took on a Philippine product patronage campaign among
OFWs and conducted bilateral linkages with Saudi businessmen to hasten
penetration of Mindanao products to the Arab nation.
She said they were able to initiate the “Magic 25″ project encouraging the
OFWs to buy at least 25 Saudi Riyals of Philippine-made products every month.
She said it would generate an estimated US$112 million of additional exports
She said Philippine government agencies in Saudi like the Philippine Embassy
and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center will coordinate the project
with Filipino communities and OFW organizations.
The businessmen among the mission decided to establish a trading company in
Saudi Arabia to handle not only their products but also other Philippine
products with good market potentials there.
The mission reported it established linkage with the chambers of commerce and
industry in Saudi Arabia and Mindanao’s business community. The mission met
with Arab business groups in Riyadh, Dammam, and Jeddah.
The mission was a joint effort of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,
Mindanao Economic Development Council, Mindanao Business Council, Davao City
Chamber of Commerce and Industry and DTI
Cruz also cited that the mission offered an opportunity for Filipinos in Saudi
Arabia to convert from being workers into investors through a Virtual Poultry
Farming Project making them overseas Filipino investors (OFIs).
She also cited the go signal for the trial shipment of fresh vegetables from
the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMin) with Safefreight
She said the mission succeeded in positioning Mindanao as an investor-friendly
She said they were able to clarify on Saudi Arabia’s Halal certification
requirements, allowing entry of Philippine canned tuna, which does not require
She said they were also able to offer joint venture to Maharlika AgroMine
Venture to set up a poultry project in Saudi with Abbar and Zainy Group.
The mission’s report cited 10 recommendations to support the gains of the
visit, including the fast tracking of the establishment of the Philippine
Halal Accreditation Body, and its recognition by Arabian authorities.
The group saw the need to sustain trade and investment promotion in the area
and pushed for follow-up activities focused not only on the Saudi market but
also on the Gulf countries of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United
It also proposed more competitive shipping facilities and to work for lower
Another recommendation is to explore the export of products where the
Philippines has competitive advantage and come up with new packaging such as
They also pushed for the Philippine Embassy to designate a trade analyst or
assistant in Riyadh and in Dammam to cover the country’s eastern province,
which could assist exporters and businessmen in these areas.
The Philippine Trade and Investment Office is based in Jeddah.
Another recommendation includes the provision of updated and accurate market
information such as landed cost and selling price to guide Philippine
exporters in price determination.
The trade mission was initiated following a call from the Saudi Arabian
government to explore business opportunities there. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)