Zamboanga City – MINDANAO’s ulamas, or Muslim religious scholars and leaders, have formed a board to accredit halal certifiers. This will move will ensure the strict implementation of the Philippine National Standards on Halal Food, which is expected to be approved during the First Halal Summit in Malacanang in March. The approval of halal standards, in turn, is expected to go a long way to helping the country get a slice of the $500-global halal industry, said Philippine Halal Accreditation Board Chairman Aleem Walid Abubakar.
At least 19 ulamas were here last January to finalize the draft of the Philippine halal food guidelines. The board is composed of at least 19 members, and headed by a chairman along with some officers and board representatives from each region in the country.
“The board shall ensure halal quality products and services for the general welfare of the people,” Sitti Amina Jain, Department of Trade and Industry’s point person on halal issues, said in an interview.
The board is seeking recognition by the government as the sole Islamic authority in the Philippines to accredit halal certifiers in the country.
“Among the primary responsibility of the board is to accredit existing and emerging halal certifiers,” Jain said.
The halal certifiers are those who check if a product passed the strict food preparation procedures prescribed by Islam, while the board will test the competence of halal certifiers.
The Philippines now has over 50 halal certifying bodies and individuals.
Under Muslim customs and traditions, consumers must be assured that the food they consume meet halal requirements, which cover raw materials and other ingredients used, as well as processing and handling process. For instance, animals must be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic rites to render them halal. Halal seal on labels of food and non-food products inform Muslim consumers that the product is free from any haram – or “prohibited” items – like pork, lard from swine, and alcohol.
The board and other halal industry players, as well as government agencies are set to convene in March in Malacanang for the first Halal Summit. “Let’s hope this will be the start of the powerful beginning. The crafting of this National Standards on Halal Food is not just for market accessibility but also for the welfare of the Muslim people,” said Ishak Mastura, trade department secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
A halal industry situationer provided by the trade department showed that there are about 10 million Muslims nationwide. The annual value of domestic halal meat market alone is estimated at P7.5 billion.