Davao City-In a bid to widen the support base for the promotion of the halal industry in Mindanao, halal industry stakeholders agreed to establish a Mindanao Halal Forum.
Halal is a purification rite mandated by Islam in order to ensure that food is fit for consumption by its faithful.
In a round table discussion with the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), halal industry stakeholders agreed to come up with forum that would serve as a mechanism to facilitate information exchange, coordination and synchronizing efforts of various stakeholders to ensure full development of Mindanao’s halal industry potentials.
The Mindanao forum will complement the efforts of the National Technical Working Group on Halal and will be composed of representatives from government, private sector and donor agencies.
“There is really a need to converge efforts,” said undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, MEDCo chairman, as he pointed out that the government and private sectors already have existing programs and projects to boost the halal industry.
He said the creation of the Mindanao Halal forum runs parallel with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s directive in 2005 to harmonize all government programs related to halal trade ensuring its compliance with international standards and effective implementation of the Halal Export Development Program.
Among the issues and concerns discussed during the consultation is the low appreciation and understanding of suppliers and certifiers on halal, as observed by the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board Incorporated (MMHCBI) in its series of surveys conducted in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“Suppliers acquire certification only for halal export”, said MMHCBI executive director Marian Daud, pointing out that there are also local consumers in ARMM and other parts of the country who want to buy halal food.
The Autonomous Regional Government has made the Halal program in ARMM one of its flagship projects. The Medium-term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004-2010 has clearly prescribed Mindanao, particularly ARMM as the center for Halal Production and Processing, being the only Muslim region in the country.
Mindanao is home to about four million Muslims or 20 percent of its total population. The island region is also the Philippine exponent to the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), which is home to over 50 million Muslims, a huge potential market for halal products.
Dr. Zenaida Hadji Raof-Laidan of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in region 12 also stressed that strong government participation is needed in the entire halal value chain, citing the proliferation of unrecognized certification entities and unscrupulous suppliers of halal food products.
Laidan also added that DOST is now coming up with an initiative to establish the Philippine National Science Halal Laboratory which will undergo analysis and incubation on products before it will be certified as halal.
“The participation of Ulama in the compliance of halal standards must also be observed”, said Ustadz Akhmad Ampuan of the Ulama League of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao. Ampuan also suggested the hiring of Muslims in slaughterhouses or business establishments who wish to engage in distributing halal food products.
The round table talk was also joined by representatives of the Muslim Business Forum Inc., Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board Inc., Sabiel Al-Mohtadeen Foundation Incorporated of Zamboanga City, Ulama League of the Philippines, Mindanao Halal Authority, Mindanao Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Muslim Affairs. MEDCoReligion