UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – On 02 December 2023, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual held meetings with Al Fardan Exchange and Dubai Islamic Bank executives at the sidelines of the 28th United Nations climate change conference (COP28) aimed at strengthening financial alliances to bolster the growth and expansion of the Philippine economy. He presented the country’s remarkable strides to foster financial inclusion and advance the country’s economic agenda.

Secretary Pascual stressed, “As we forge these pivotal alliances, we establish partnerships that will pave way for a transformative financial landscape that positions the country in the global market. These engagements reflect our collective commitment to propel sustainable economic growth and financial inclusivity.” During the high-profile meeting with Al Fardan Group Chief Data Officer ADave North, the DTI chief welcomed the group’s keen interest in expanding its operations into the Philippines. He encouraged the company to explore ventures highlighting the vast potential within the country’s Information Technology-Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector and digital wallet services. He also emphasized the country’s abundant natural resources and government support that create a conducive investment environment for e-commerce, fintech, and the electric vehicle industry.

Further, the trade and industry chief emphasized the fiscal benefits of Republic Act No. 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act for foreign investors. He also cited the Philippines’ strategic position as a gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) economies. Additionally, he emphasized the benefits of strategic trade agreements and the recently launched Maharlika Investment Fund, designed to drive long-term economic development.

Established in 1954, the Al Fardan Group has emerged in UAE as a prominent conglomerate, boasting diverse business interests spanning jewelry, finance, property and hospitality, automotive, investment, marine services, and medical sectors. Today, it is a leading entity with a multifaceted presence across various industries.

Meanwhile, Secretary Pascual also met with Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Banking Hamid Butt and Senior Relationship Manager, Debt Capital Markets Investment Hashim Azmi to discuss their interest in the Philippines’ banking sector, highlighting ongoing talks about entry procedures and incentives. He stressed the importance of financial inclusion, noting that 44% of the bankable population remains unbanked, especially in rural areas.

Further, the trade and industry chief mentioned recent progress with issuing the first Islamic Banking Unit (IBU) license to a conventional bank, aiming to diversify the sector. He also emphasized the government’s commitment to leveling the playing field for Muslim and non-Muslim investors and cited efforts to ensure compliance with Shari’ah parameters and encourage open communication for a competitive banking landscape.

DIB is UAE’s most prominent Islamic Bank and the world’s second-largest by total assets. As a publicly traded company on the Dubai Financial Market, it is a leader in global Islamic finance, boasting assets over USD 75 billion, a market capitalization surpassing USD 10 billion, and a vast network of around 500 branches across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with over 10,000 employees. Highlighting the importance of building financial alliances, Secretary Pascual underscored, “As we propel the Philippines towards robust economic growth and expansion, we remain steadfast in constructing a financial environment that empowers every Filipino. These alliances bring us closer to our vision of integrating the Philippines into the global economy through financial inclusion built on resilience, adaptability, and opportunity.” ♦

Date of release: 05 December 2023