Philippine halal initiative gets boost
Koronadal City (27 October) -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officially launched on Thursday here the "Philippine Science and Technology Program for the Development of the Halal Idustry," with hopes flying high that such mechanism will finally allow the country to penetrate the global halal market.
Dr. Zenaida P. HR Laidan, DOST-Central Mindanao director, also announced that construction of a halal testing laboratory in nearby Koronadal City, which is the regional seat of government, will soon start with the approval of a budget worth P50 million.
"We want to become the clearing house of all halal products going out of the country to ensure their credibility with the foreign buyers," she said.
With the launching of the science and technology halal program, Laidan noted that the regional DOST office is setting direction in developing the country's halal industry to penetrate the global halal market she placed at an estimated value of $600 billion.
The DOST halal program earned the support of the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture (DA), with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also backing the program.
"This groundbreaking forum...brings the development and propagation of halal food to the fore while providing to efficiently comply with halal's local and international quality and production standards," the President said in a message written to the organizers.
She urged halal stakeholders in the nation to unite in a bid to propel the industry's growth and eventually capture a pie of the foreign market, with Central Mindanao as the halal production center of the country and gateway to the world starting with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
There are reportedly 50 halal certifying bodies in the country today, but their credibility is under question particularly on the technical aspect of ascertaining the halalness of the products.
Also, the country has no singular national halal guidelines that would govern the certification process, with certifying groups jockeying to have their standards as the national guideline.
"We should complement each others work and not compete with each other. What our department is trying to do is set up a mechanism, technically and scientifically, that would protect our halal products from being rejected by foreign markets," Laidan said.
Earlier, Laidan said food products cannot be considered fully halal by religious rites alone, since there can be inputs given to these animals that may have been contaminated with swine oil.
More than a hundred participants graced the two-day event dubbed National Halal Forum 2008. Its theme is "The Halal Market -- The Best Market Place for Mindanao Economic Growth."
Halal experts from Malaysia and Thailand attended the affair as resource speakers.
Haja Sittie Mariam Abdul Latif, director of halal integrity at Malaysia's Halal Industry Development Corp., said for the Philippines to penetrate the global halal market, it should create a unified national standards that should be strictly enforced.
Also, she said industries must have the commitment to produce quality halal products, and this can be achieved by going into training and be accredited by a credible halal certifying body.
"Malaysia is willing to assist you by giving training [on halal production]," Latif said.
But there's also a need to educate the Filipino consumers, even the non-Muslims, on halal products to make it popular in the domestic front and not just eyeing the markets abroad, she added.
Laidan said there are an estimated two billion Muslim consumers abroad, but non-Muslims can also be tapped.
There is an estimated seven billion non-Muslim consumers throughout the world whose demanding preference for healthy and wholesome food products is synonymous to halal, she added.
Halal products are those permissible in Islam, but non-Muslims are not prohibited to consume these products. (DOST/PIA 12 abb) [top]