Philippines: Goals for Halal industry outlined

MANILA, Philippines — Recognizing that the Philippines is still in a catch-up stage with the US$1.2-trillion world market for Muslim-inspired consumer goods, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has underscored the importance of integrity for the success and sustainability of the country’s Halal industry.

NCMF is mandated by Republic Act No. 9997 to be the main government agency tasked to develop and promote the still largely undeveloped Philippine Halal industry.

It is apparently in line with the steadily-growing world market for Halal products-food and non-food — and services, which are also fast gaining acceptance from non-Muslims because of its being hygienic and of good quality.

A big international Halal industry player with a branch in Makati City has earlier welcomed NCMF’s mandate on Halal, saying it is time the government help gain credibility and acceptance for an otherwise wholly unsupervised and unmonitored local Halal industry through the regulation of Halal certifying bodies (HCBs), many of them “fly-by-nights.”

NCMF Secretary/CEO Lucman spoke before stakeholders at an International Halal Assurance Seminar (IHAS) held Friday and Saturday at a Makati Hotel, where she minced no words in citing the importance of the role of government in putting to order the local Halal industry.

She said: “In pursuit of such mandate, the NCMF is guided by the principle of integrity as key to the success and sustainability of the local Halal industry.”

Lucman enumerated the three goals of NCMF based on the “principle of integrity” that must be the guiding light of the country’s Halal industry.

“Primordial of which is to ensure that the manufacturing and processing of food and non-food products that are being consumed or used by Muslims are in accordance with a stringent Halal standard; next is to enhance the country’s share in the global Halal market and eventually boost our economy; and third is to promote wider awareness and understanding on Halal, thereby promoting and strengthening social cohesion in this multi-cultural country,” Lucman said.

She assured that NCMF will not dip its fingers on the religious aspects of determining the “Halalness” of a product, but forcefully argued for government intervention where religion is not involved.

“I, for one, believe that such argument did not augur well with reality as it was attempting to delimit the wide breadth of Halal as a way of life for the Muslims,” the NCMF official said.

“Yes, defining what is Halal or not for the Muslims or establishing a national Halal standard through interpretation of the Holy Qur’an or referring to the Hadith is the function of our ulama, thus religious by nature. But as an industry, Halal could not reach its optimum potential without strong government intervention and collaboration with experts and scientists,” said Lucman.

Without any help from scientific analysis through laboratory tools a Muslim religious leader (aleem, plural ulama), with his honesty and knowledge of Qur’anic precepts would still not be able to determine if a food or non-food product is Halal (permissible, Shar’iah law-compliant), she said.

“The government, on the other hand, through its designated Muslim agency, in the case of a country where the Muslims are a minority, has the capability to enforce relevant rules and regulations pertaining to the sustainability of Halal integrity and export promotion of local Halal products,” said Lucman.

Lucman noted the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbors such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei, etc., in the race to grab a bite and benefit from the global Halal market.

She asked the Halal industry players and the HCBs to be partners of the government to gain a foothold in the steadily-growing market for Islam-inspired products and services that include food, non-food such as cosmetics, medicines, etc.