Philippines: Country missing out on lucrative halal market

MANILA, Philippines — In 2010 the global halal market registered US$1.2-billion worth of in trade, but the Philippines is nowhere near grabbing a share because of the absence of both a government regulator and an internationally accepted national halal standards.

In spite of many attempts in the past, the government has still come up short of having a body to regulate the country’s Halal Certification Bodies (HCBs).

Save for a few qualified and credible HCBs, halal certification remains a free-for-all in the country, with many HCBs just doing it for a fast buck according to Muslim consumers.

An industry insider, Sandy Bucao, president and country manager of Intertek Testing Services Philippines, Inc., shared her observations with the Manila Bulletin on the problems ailing the country’s fledgling halal industry.

Intertek is involved in the international halal arena, in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, among others.

“At the moment, the Philippines is facing quite a number of problems or issues in the development of halal industry in order for us to be competitive with our neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore,” said Bucao.

She said the country has no “formally published and approved” national halal standards, saying the proposed Philippine National Standards on Halal has remained a draft.

“There is no government regulatory body recognizing or accrediting Halal Certification Bodies in order to protect halal integrity, promote competence of these HCBs and get rid of the fly-by-night ones,” said Bucao.

On March 3 Intertek inaugurated its state-of-the-art Halal Testing Laboratory with Polymerase Chair Reaction (HTL-PCR) System at its headquarters in Makati City.

Bucao described the PCR System as “the most reliable test method at the moment to determine the presence of haram (forbidden substances) in both food and non-food products.

Meanwhile, many Muslims said food and non-food products bearing the halal logo found in local supermarkets and groceries do not enjoy much patronage from Muslim consumers.

Islamic scholars said that if a Muslim knowingly eats or uses food or non-food products that contain pork, alcohol, toxics and other hazardous substances he or she is committing a major sin.

Another result of the sore lack of state regulator to check and accredit qualified halal-certifying Islamic groups is the emergence of what they said are “fly-by-night” certifiers who just accept money from gullible companies to earn halal logo for their products.

“It is a waste of money because many Muslims know that these halal logos do not carry much credibility. There is no guarantee these products went through scientific tests to determine if they contain haram (forbidden) substances,” said one consumer.