Gov’t launches sci-tech program for halal industry

“Halal” is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” In relation to food products, it means prepared in accordance with the Koran.

The program will also get a boost from the construction of a halal testing laboratory in Koranadal City, the capital of the region here.

"We want to become the clearing house of all halal products going out of the
country to ensure their credibility with the foreign buyers," said Zenaida
Laidan, regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)
of Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12).

The DOST officially launched on Thursday here the "Philippine Science and Technology Program for the Development of the Halal Industry", the mechanism
that government hoped would finally allow the country to penetrate the global halal market, which she estimated to be about $600 billion.

Laidan said that the program would put the scientific and technical aspect of a halal preparation saying that 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.

She called on the different halal certifying bodies to unite "and propel the industry's growth and eventually capture a pie of the foreign market, with Southwestern Mindanao as the halal production center of the country and gateway to the world starting with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei".

There were reportedly 50 halal certifying bodies in the country today, but their credibility had been 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 credible certification process, with certifying groups jockeying to have their standards as the national guideline.

"We should complement each other’s 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," she said.

The science and technology halal program earned the support of the Departments of Health and Agriculture, 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 to the organizers.
More than a hundred participants graced the two-day event dubbed National Halal Forum 2008 ending today (February 29). 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 hahal integrity at Malaysia's Halal Industry Development Corp., said that the Philippines should create a unified national standards that shall be strictly enforced if the country wants to penetrate the global halal market,

Industries must have the commitment to produce quality halal products, she added, "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," Latif said.

The local market must also be tapped, she 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". (MindaNews)