Malaysia wants increased flights to Mindanao, tie-up on food tourism

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

April 10, 2024, 7:30 pm

<p>Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino. <em>(Photo courtesy of DBM)</em></p>

Malaysian Ambassador Dato' Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino. (Photo courtesy of DBM)

MANILA – Malaysia is looking forward to establishing more flights to the Philippines, especially Mindanao, as trade and tourism exchanges between the two states grow.

Malaysian Ambassador Dato Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino said there is demand for flights to Mindanao as more Malaysians recognize the “vibrant” Halal tourism sector in some of its destinations, such as Zamboanga City and Davao Region.

Malaysians, he said, are also looking at Cagayan de Oro as a gateway to Northern Mindanao, which is home to a variety of attractions from nature to sun and beach.

“We hope to increase flights between Malaysia and the Philippines, especially to Mindanao. These include flights by AirAsia and PAL (Philippine Airlines) in the near future where we hope to have more connectivity between the two countries,” Castelino said in an interview during an Eid'l Fitr reception at his residence in Makati.

The envoy also cited the growing trade between the two states as part of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area or the BIMP-EAGA.

He said the grouping has in fact decided to create a sub-committee that would jointly promote the four states’ Halal products.

“There’s a lot of trade going on really in this area, especially cross-border trade. We hope that will also spur to have more trade in terms of tourists,” he added.

Meanwhile, Castelino said Muslim food tourism is one area the two states could further focus on and conveyed Malaysia’s readiness to help Manila tap the multi-billion dollar Halal market, which is expected to reach USD7.7 trillion in market value by 2025.

“You have beautiful islands and products, which I think the world needs to know and if you also add on the Halal tourism, you get a wide section of tourists from the Middle East, from the Islamic countries,” he said.

“That opens up huge areas of opportunity in terms of creating jobs and small and medium industries to come on board,” he added.

At the reception, the envoy presented a number of Malaysian and Halal dishes that were quite similar to Filipino food such as lemang that could rival the Philippines' sumang malagkit (steamed glutinous rice) and the chicken satay that is close to the taste of Bacolod inasal, among others.

As Malaysia and the Philippines mark 60 years of bilateral relations in May, Castelino expects more interactions and programs between the two governments, especially on business, digitalization, and people-to-people ties. (PNA)