RP halal trade gets boost with Malaysia deal

August 30, 2009, 6:14pm

Efforts of the Philippine government to grab a share of the
estimated US$500-billion annual Muslim-driven world halal industry
received a big boost recently as the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA)
under Executive Director Datu Ali B. Sangki struck a deal with
Malaysia’s world-class Halal Industry Development Corporation Sdn Bhd
(HDC) to strengthen the country’s fledgling halal program.

The government of Malaysia has been vigorously pushing the Muslim
country to become a “Global Halal Hub” and HDC “reflects the
seriousness of Malaysia in pursuing this objective.”

OMA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with HDC last Aug. 20
witnessed by Malaysian Ambassador Dato Ahmad Rashidi Hazizi.

Representing Sangki, who was then in Geneva, Switzerland, on an
official trip with a Philippine delegation, Director Tahir Lidasan Jr.,
head of Bureau of External Relations (OMA-BER), and Nicholas Shariff
Collins, representing HDC Chief Executive Officer Dato Seri Jamil
Bidin, signed for OMA and HDC, respectively.

“OMA is able to fulfill the instruction of Undersecretary Sangki to
actively promote halal globally and institutionalize OMA linkages with
the different stakeholders in the halal industry,” said Lidasan, also
head of OMA-BER’s Halal Unit.

He was referring to the OMA executive director’s belief that it is
best to use corporate approach to halal promotion, especially in a
“fast-changing corporate environment,” a signal to the Philippine
business community to get ready if they want to gain a foothold in the
steadily growing global halal market.

Simply stated, halal means legal or permitted. For a food or any
consumer item to be declared halal, it must not contain pork and its
derivatives or other haram (illegal, prohibited) substances.

Muslims are not allowed to eat or use anything that is haram, meaning un-Islamic.

Presently, halal has become the “buzz word” in the consumer world,
not only among Muslims, but also with non-Muslims for its stringent
adoption of safe, healthful and sanitary ways of preparing food,
drinks, etc.

“The MoU between OMA and HDC also provides for consultations on
regional and international halal issues of mutual interests and
whenever necessary ‘meet alternately in their respective offices to
hold consultations on issues pertaining to halal,'” said Lidasan.

A more comprehensive memorandum of agreement is being planned
between the two parties as the MoU’s implementation will come in
stages. The planned MoA’s objective is to draft a mechanism on the
promotion of halal in Southeast Asia, which could include also
governments and private institutions.

So far, the Philippine halal industry suffers from lack of
credibility because Islamic groups offering halal certifications are
still largely unorganized and continue to go on their own without a
body regulating and checking their activities.

Muslim Filipino consumers have voiced apprehensions that many of the
consumer goods bearing halal logo in the country could actually contain
haram ingredients because some Islamic halal certifying groups hardly
know what they are doing.