Halal Trade Expo laudable but registration fees too high

DOHA, Qatar (MindaNews/06 May) — The 2nd Philippine Halal Tourism and Trade Expo event began May 5 and will end on May 7 at the Activity Center of Abreeza Mall in Davao City. It aims, among other things, to “showcase a wide range of halal products, food and tourism services from local to international companies.”

One of the local companies participating is MS3 Agri-ventures, an SME producing halal cacao products such as Cacao Tablet or Tableya, Cacao Powder, Cacao Nibs, Cacao Tea and Cacao Vinegar. Located in Bunawan, Davao City, MS3 Agri-Ventures is busy with Abdulkareem and his staff making fresh new batches of cacao tablets to be supplied to their local buyer; but today, he and his wife Safiya Miranda, are participating at the event.

Asked about the challenges the budding company is facing, the Santillan couple answered that “the most daunting is getting halal financing for expansion and (to) stimulate growth.”

According to its official lead organizer Marilou W. Ampuan, 42 exhibitors have confirmed to participate in the Philippine Halal Tourism Expo, Riwaya sadly noticed that only a handful, among them MS3 Agri-ventures and Alzaky Halal Chicken, occupied the booths provided at Activity Center located at the ground floor of Abreeza Mall. Ms Ampuan is also the secretary of Mindanao Islamic Chamber of Commerce, and president of United Islamic Center.

Indeed, it is laudable that the Halal expo envisions to raise public awareness on Halal by pooling together various players and stakeholders of the tourism and trade industry parallel to the efforts of the national and Davao City government to boost the Halal tourism economic program.

However, not all Halal providers in Davao City are able to attend the expo due to exorbitant registration fees according to Ms. Warina Sushil Jukuy, the Tausug Muslim proprietor of a newly opened local halal restaurant, Alhamdulillah Tausug Satti House of Halal Food, located across Centerpoint Plaza, Matina Crossing.

On her Facebook timeline, Ms. Jukuy laments “Halal Tourism Expo and Trade is all about money & the intent & spirit of their written objectives are lost in the exorbitant prices and fees they require that are not friendly to budding SMEs most especially struggling small-time Muslim local entrepreneurs.”

“If not, why do they require fees? Halal promotions vis a vis awareness campaign must be ‘free’ please!” Ms Jukuy wrote on her Fb status. The exhibition costs fifteen thousand pesos (300 USD according to xe.com as of press time). Such fee is not affordable for most small businesses which are inclined or are hoping to participate in the expo.

Further, when asked about Halal certification, Mr. Santillan expressed that the Halal certification body, IDCP or Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines asked a hefty sum of fifty five thousand pesos (USD 1100 according to xe.com as of press time). There are several DTI-recognized Halal certification boards operating in the Philippines. They were contacted via social media and asked about the issue but as of posting, Riwaya is still awaiting response from them.

The Philippines, through the Department of Tourism is catching up to have the slice of the pie of global Islamic economy which was estimated to be worth $1.9 trillion in 2015. Davao City is probably the first city in the Philippines to have an ordinance concerning halal food in the markets.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’s effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries or their thoughts on what is happening in their homeland. Al Madzhar J. Ahmadul, a native of Sulu, works as Physiotherapy Supervisor at the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar and is a correspondent of Riwaya International)