Philippines: Government support for ‘halal’ industries sought

Stakeholders are apprehensive the “halal” industries and business regulation system in Southern Mindanao might not take off without utmost support from the national government.

Some of the more than 300 participants to the November 20-21 “halal” investments forum in Maguindanao’s Buluan town even suggested that corresponding laws be immediately enacted to complement the initiative.

The Arabic term “halal” refers to food and medicines that are not “haram,” or forbidden to Muslims.

Zambales Rep.  Mitos Magsaysay, who addressed participants to the forum, said the national government ought to support the “halal” businesses in Moro-dominated areas not just because of its importance to Muslims, but due to their viability of generating employment for local sectors.

“This is the kind of program the national government ought to support because `halal’ businesses and industries can provide people with employment,” Magsaysay said.

The Islamic “halal” industry concept is not only about food and medicines being free from “haram” contaminants, such as pork and its derivatives, and meat of other forbidden animals, but on how livestock and cultured fishes are raised to ensure fitness for human consumption.

Magsaysay said the government should focus attention on training potential “halal” industry stakeholders to empower the business communities in Moro areas in Mindanao.

The two-day “halal” investment forum in Maguindanao, organized by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, was meant to show participants the investment potentials of the province.

The halal initiatives of Mangudadatu’s office is supported by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process through OPAPP’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

Magsaysay said the government should consider investing on “halal” programs since it can complement the Mindanao peace process.

Magsasay said she is certain “halal” industries in Mindanao will prosper if there is a peaceful settlement of the peace and security issues in the area.

Lea Sagan, Mangudadatu’s chief provincial PAMANA coordinator, said there is now a Maguindanao Halal Institute, which can impart “halal” business technology and strategies to residents in the province.

One of the showcases of the provincial halal initiatives is the cattle, milk and meat production project of the governor in Buluan, according to Sagan.

Participants to the investments forum in Buluan town all acknowledged that livestock and food products certified as “halal” by a special government accreditation board are easier to sell  in markets in member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC groups together more than 50 Muslim states, including wealthy petroleum-exporting states in the Middle East and North Africa.

An environmentalist-entrepreneur, Retired Army Gen. Victor Corpuz, said the concept of “halal” should also be taught to non-Muslims since food that are labeled as such are good for health and can be marketed to Muslim consumers abroad.

The ARMM’s agriculture department already has “halal” experts led by veterinarian Norodin Kuit.

The halal food production concept is one that also emphasizes sanitation in raising farm animals and agricultural products.

ARMM Assemblyman Khadafy Mangudadatu, one of the three representatives of the second district of Maguindanao to the 24-seat Regional Assembly, said there is a need for laws meant to strengthen the “halal” industries in the autonomous region.

“Especially that the GPH-MILF peace initiative is aimed at disarming rebels as part of a normalization process. When we disarm them, we need to provide them jobs to keep them busy and for them to have earnings to sustain their families,” Assemblyman Mangudadatu said.

He said Maguindanao, which is a known bastion of the MILF, can be made even more productive if the national government, through PAMANA project, and the ARMM, can jointly transform the area into a “bulwark” of “halal” industries.