Zambo summit set to unify rival halal bodies

The meeting would seek to establish a national halal guideline and a singular competent certifying agency, a ranking agricultural official said.

Mustapha Ismael, chairperson of the Halal Food Industry Development Committee of the Department of Agriculture, said the battle “was raging on whose guidelines should be adopted as the country’s standards”.

“Forming a Philippine halal body is indeed very difficult,” he said.

The move was made amid the push of halal-certifying agencies in the country to make their respective agencies the standard guidelines in the halal-certification, and as new groups also sprouted in Mindanao in their bid to take a slice in the potentials of the halal industry.

The recent newcomer was the Mindanao Halal Authority, formed in this city by the General Santos City-based Muslim Business Forum, Inc. The agency was established only weeks after the National Halal Council of the Philippines (NHCP) was also organized in this city.

NHCP was formed through the directive of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to encourage the ulama, or Islamic scholars, “to establish and institutionalize one competent Halal body for the country to carve a niche in the global halal market”. About 50 ulama across Mindanao attended the meeting that created the NHCP.

Also earlier, the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board, Inc. was launched in October last year in Makati. The board was endorsed and supported by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government.

Next week, Mindanao officials of the Department of Trade and Industry would go on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia to explore the country’s chances of penetrating the kingdom’s vast Muslim consumers.

Ismael said the Agriculture department called for a Zamboanga halal summit to address the need for the country to come up with one Halal authority that will bolster its chances of getting a pie of the estimated $150 billion annual global industry.

He said that the affairs of the desired Halal authority, through supported by the government, would be strictly left to the private sector. Ismael said he expected discussions in the coming halal summit to be heated as existing certifying bodies would vie to have their standards be the barometer for the country.

“Presently, no one among these certifying bodies can claim that they are national halal competent body. This issue has not been settled that’s why we would gather them [in Zamboanga],” he added.

Hopefully, he said the various standards of these certifying bodies can be incorporated into one that will serve as the national halal guidelines.

He said the summit would involve government agencies like the DA, DTI, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Tourism and the Office of Muslim Affairs.

Presently, he said, that OMA and DTI gave authority to certifyers to identify halal products. Engr. Edwin Banquerigo said there are 50 companies nationwide that were granted halal-certification.

At least 403 existing products were certified also as halal, he added.

By food safety standards, halal is considered a quality control system by itself that puts emphasis on critical control points involving hygienic and disease-free preparation of foods from farm to plate. Halal seal marked on labels of food and non-food products will inform Muslim consumers that the product is free from any haram, or forbidden meat handling and meat ingredients such or pork, lard from swine and alcohol.