Philippines: Gov’t targets to finalize national Halal standards by April

THE GOVERNMENT hopes to finalize unified standards for halal products by April, in time for presentation in an international conference scheduled that month, the Agriculture department said in a statement yesterday.

Such a move, in turn, has long been cited by both government and industries as a requirement to penetrating the global halal market that is estimated to be worth some $2.3 trillion.

Halal refers to the prescribed process of preparing certain products according to Islamic law.

Local halal products have been certified by groups like the Ulama Conference of the Philippines. But Republic Act No. 9997, or the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Act of 2009, sought to introduce a national system by forming this agency to accredit halal-certifying bodies.

Still, these standards and certifying procedures have to be harmonized with what is enforced in major Muslim countries if Philippine halal exports are to gain a foothold in these markets.

The press statement quoted Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala as saying that nationwide consultations are now under way to finalize three draft standards, namely: the Halal Agriculture and Fishery Products, the Code of Halal Slaughtering Practices for Poultry and the Code of Halal Slaughtering Practices for Large Ruminants. Besides prescribing specific procedures for each food group, the standards will also “address issues on genetically modified organisms,” the statement added.

The Agriculture department hopes to finalize these halal standards in time for their presentation at the meeting of the ASEAN Technical Working Group on Halal Food and the World Halal Forum this April in Malaysia, the statement said.

“I had instructed the Department of Agriculture’s Halal Food Industry Development Committee, chaired [sic] by BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) 12 (Central Mindanao) Regional Director Sani D. Macabalang to undertake a series of consultations with stakeholders nationwide, so they could share in refining the proposed draft standards,” Mr. Alcala said.

The first consultation, held last Jan. 24 at the Bureau of Plant Industry office in Quezon City, was attended by 50 Muslim scholars from Metro Manila, as well as representatives of NCMF, relevant agencies and the private sector, the statement said.

Datu Tahir S. Lidasan, Jr., NCMF director for External Relations and Halal Technical and Accreditation Unit, said in a phone interview yesterday that another round is scheduled in Cebu City from Feb. 7-9.

The statement said two other hearings have been planned: one in General Santos City on Feb. 16 and another in Zamboanga City sometime in March.

“[Middle Eastern countries] do not produce their own food,” Mr. Lidasan explained. “The Philippines wants to get a share of that market, which is actually dominated by non-Muslim countries like New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.” — E. J. Diaz