The Department of Tourism (DOT) bared its plan to make the world-famous Boracay Island 'Muslim-friendly' in a bid to attract more Muslim tourists.

DOT Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco declared the agency's plan for a 'Muslim-friendly Boracay' during the opening of the three-day Salaam: The Halal Travel and Trade Expo at the Gateway Mall 2 in Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City last June 14.

The idea of making Boracay a Muslim-friendly destination came up during a meeting between the DOT, officials of the local government of Malay that hosts the popular white-sand beach spot and the ambassadors of Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam two months ago, according to DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar.

She recalled that Malay mayor Frolibar Bautista was looking into three areas that would serve as 'private cove for Muslim women to swim because they are prohibited to swim with others.'

Bautista also proposed to change the layout of the port in Boracay to include a Muslim prayer room, added Abubakar.

The Muslim-friendly Boracay campaign is slated for launch in September this year.

While the government does not have a program for certifying establishments that are halal, or those that conform to Islamic doctrine, due to the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, Abubakar pointed out the DOT 'works closely' with third-party halal certifiers, especially since it has come up with guidelines for recognition of accommodation establishments as halal-certified.

Aside from the said proposal, Frasco said the DOT continues to support the initiatives of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to welcome more Muslim travelers, as well as 'working very closely with restaurant owners to make halal versions of Filipino dishes' and 'lowering the security alert levels across the islands.'

The DOT was 'dedicated to position the Philippines as a viable destination for Muslim travelers,' Frasco said.

She also commended Quezon City for being 'one of the most Muslim-friendly local government units in Metro Manila,' with a population of up to 50,000 Muslims and with the establishment of 45 mosques.

'Their presence underscores our commitment to inclusivity and multiculturalism, making our city a dynamic and welcoming place for all,' said Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte in her speech.

Belmonte revealed that 'close to 20 Muslim-friendly restaurants registered with our Business Permits and Licensing Department.'

The local government through its tourism department and the Bangsamoro Affairs Office also launched initiatives such as an annual best halal dishes competition, collaboration with the DOT for halal certification and the private sector for partnerships in mainstreaming halal food, products and services, Belmonte said.

'These initiatives resonate deeply in Quezon City, especially in our movement toward inclusivity and respect for cultural and religious diversity,' she added.

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