National edict sought to boost RP halal industry

COTABATOCITY (BPI-ARMM) – The national government under the fresh leadership of President Nonoy Aquino should issue an executive order mandating line agencies involved in halal industry in order for the Philippines to fully harness benefits from the trillion-dollar worldwide business.
This was the common battle-cry among officials of concerned government agencies in Region XII and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao who gathered for the first time at the Tapatan sa ARMM, a weekly public forum cum press conference held here last Wednesday.
Invited experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), a private group, and journalists have expressed common belief that the Philippines halal industry has been underdeveloped because of their “disharmonious” operations.
Besides, the partner agencies of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) do not have “specific mandates” that would require them to provide focal attention to the trillion-dollar halal industry, BFAR-XII Director Sani D. Macabalang said.
The creation of the NCMF, pursuant to the enactment of R.A. 7779 on Feb. 18, 2010, reconciled the separated technical authority of the government and the spiritual right of organized groups of ulama (Islamic scholars) to issue certification in adherence to an earlier Supreme Court decision.
R.A. 7779 provides for the appointment of an Ulama representative as one of the six (6) commissioners of the NCMF, thereby ending the tug-of-war between the defunct Office on Muslim Affairs (a predecessor of the infant commission) over the question of spiritual and technical authorities on halal accreditation and certification.
However, Macabalang said, the provision of R.A. 7779 on the partnership of the NCMF and line agencies like the DOST, DA, BFAR, Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other groups has remained unsatisfied because of the lack of an implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
“The NCMF should have initiated the promulgation of the IRR upon its creation last February. The IRR could be in the form of an executive from the Office of the President, spelling out the mandates of the partner agencies of NCMF in the halal industry,” Macabalang said.
The absence of mandates for the partner agencies is causing disharmony in the works of institutions expected to promote and develop the halal industry, thus depriving the Philippines of potential shares from the huge worldwide business, he said.
Presently, he said, DOH, DA and DOST are mandated to ascertain only the purity level of food and cosmetic products and not the halalness of Philippine-made products.
The term halal is an Arabic word for permissibility in the use or consumption products. Its opposite is haram or forbidden.
The use of pork and its derivatives are haram in the production and manufacture of food and non-food products intended for halal classification, said Dr. Norodin Kuit of the ARMM’s agriculture and fisheries department.
The DOST, being the government’s central arm on science and technology, has got laboratory facilities capable of testing the purity level of food and non-food products, according DOST-XII Director Dr. Zenaida Laidan.
Laidan, who represented the country in the recent world halal forum in Thailand, said an executive order from the national government would be imperative in effectively carrying out the signed memorandum of agreement among seven countries, including the Philippines.
Leading halal-producing firms of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany and Turkey have agreed along with the Philippines “to cooperate” in the development and promotion of global halal industry, expand such collaboration to other institutions through international funding and technology transfer.
Macabalang, a multi-awarded fishery expert, said the manufacture and processing of halal products from marine and aquatic resources are bit complicated as to require one to determine that the sources of feeds are halal, too.
He recalled that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had earlier classified the halal industry as the “most stable industry” in the world highly potential to boost the Philippine economy.
For the hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide, the halal industry is robust because the “act of living halal is another form of submission to the Will of God and an obligatory act,” Macabalang said.
The guest discussants including Ustadz Ismael Ebahim of the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certifying Board (MMHCB) have lauded the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information for inviting to its weekly Tapatan forum some experts from different regions for the first time in this city.
The forum sponsor has assured to hold another episode for the NCMF and the DOH to send in their representatives, who failed to attend last Wednesday’s gathering.
The discussants welcomed the conduct of the forum was a showcase of the present ARMM leadership’s paradigm shift in national concerns like the halal industry and in the Mindanao peace process. (Ali G. Macabalang / BPI-ARMM)