Philippines, Malaysia keen on joint ventures for palm oil

THE Philippines and Malaysia discussed the possibility of setting up joint ventures for palm-oil plantations during the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM), according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

AEM Chairman and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the Philippines and Malaysia held bilateral meetings where travel-tax exemptions were also tackled.

“We talked about the feasibility of pursuing joint ventures for oil plantation in the Philippines, and we’d like to pursue discussions therein. We can start with 200 hectares to 300 hectares and if that has potential, we can go into processing,” Lopez told reporters on Monday.

The discussion on palm oil is a follow-up to President Duterte’s official visit to Malaysia last year, when investment opportunities were first broached. Aside from palm-oil investments, the Philippines and Malaysia are also targeting to strengthen their cooperation in tourism.

According to Lopez, in a Philippine-Malaysia Business Council meeting, where Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia was included, there were requests to waive the travel tax, which applies mostly to Philippine nationals.

“There’s also a request, that we’re studying, to waive the P1,600 travel tax. This may seem small but it matters a lot for a budget airline known for offering low-ticket prices,” he said.

“We were shown a feasibility study of the effect if the tax is waived. There’s a multiplier effect in terms of increase of tourists and the revenues foregone can easily be recovered by the amount of business in terms of more tourists,” Lopez added.

The DTI chief said the government will discuss the possibility of scrapping the travel tax with Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, which collects it.

Prominent Malaysian companies operating in the Philippines include Resorts World Hotel, Shangri-La Hotels, the Malayan Banking Corp., Mitra Energy Philippines and AlloyMtd (formerly MTD Capital Bhd), which recently upgraded the South Luzon Expressway.