Halal initiative in Philippines gets boost

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Department of
Science and Technology (DOST) officially launched on Thursday here the
“Philippine Science and Technology Program for the Development of the
Halal Industry,” with hopes flying high that such mechanism will
finally allow the country to penetrate the global halal market.

Zenaida Laidan, DOST-Central Mindanao
director, also announced that construction of a halal testing
laboratory in nearby Koronadal City, which is the regional seat of
government, will soon start with the approval of a budget worth P50

“We want to become the clearing house of
all halal products going out of the country to ensure their credibility
with the foreign buyers,” she said.

With the launching of the science and technology halal program,
Laidan noted that the regional DOST office is setting direction in
developing the country’s halal industry to penetrate the global halal
market she placed at an estimated value of $600 billion.

The DOST halal program earned the support of the Department of
Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture (DA), with President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo also backing the program.

“This groundbreaking forum …brings the development and
propagation of halal food to the fore while providing to efficiently
comply with halal’s local and international quality and production
standards,” the President said in a message written to the organizers.

She urged halal stakeholders in the nation to unite in a bid to
propel the industry’s growth and eventually capture a pie of the
foreign market, with Central Mindanao as the halal production center of
the country and gateway to the world starting with Indonesia, Malaysia
and Brunei.

There are reportedly 50 halal certifying bodies in the country
today, but their credibility is under question particularly on the
technical aspect of ascertaining the halalness of the products.

Also, the country has no singular national halal guidelines that
would govern the certification process, with certifying groups
jockeying to have their standards as the national guideline.

“We should complement each others work and not compete with each
other. What our department is trying to do is set up a mechanism,
technically and scientifically, that would protect our halal products
from being rejected by foreign markets,” Laidan said.

Earlier, Laidan said food products cannot be considered fully halal
by religious rites alone, since there can be inputs given to these
animals that may have been contaminated with swine oil.

More than a hundred participants graced the two-day event dubbed
National Halal Forum 2008. Its theme is “The Halal Market — The Best
Market Place for Mindanao Economic Growth.”

Halal experts from Malaysia and Thailand attended the affair as resource speakers.

Haja Sittie Mariam Abdul Latif, director of halal integrity at
Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corp., said for the Philippines
to penetrate the global halal market, it should create a unified
national standards that should be strictly enforced.

Also, she said industries must have the commitment to produce
quality halal products, and this can be achieved by going into training
and be accredited by a credible halal certifying body.

“Malaysia is willing to assist you by giving training [on halal production],” Latif said.

But there’s also a need to educate the Filipino consumers, even the
non-Muslims, on halal products to make it popular in the domestic front
and not just eyeing the markets abroad, she added.

Laidan said there are an estimated two billion Muslim consumers abroad, but non-Muslims can also be tapped.

There is an estimated seven billion non-Muslim consumers throughout
the world whose demanding preference for healthy and wholesome food
products is synonymous to halal, she added.

Halal products are those permissible in Islam, but non-Muslims are not prohibited to consume these products.