“The NCMF envisions a system whereby government agencies can effectively contribute their expertise in developing our capacity to produce globally competitive halal products,” Mr. Lidasan said by phone yesterday.
He said that improving local halal standards involves coordinated efforts among three government offices, the Agriculture department takes charge of creating standards on abattoir, ruminants, and meat, while the Trade department is responsible for marketing halal products.
Meanwhile, he said the Bureau of Food and Drugs under the Health department will design processes on how to analyze both food and non-food halal products.
The government has long expressed interest in transforming the country into a competitive exporter of halal goods in an effort to capture part of the $1.2-trillion global halal market, which grows by $500 billion yearly.
In 2001 the Secretaries of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Health, Science and Technology, and the executive director of the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish an ad hoc committee on halal food.
Eight years later, the government enacted Republic Act 9997, abolishing the OMA and creating the NCMF with an encompassing and exclusive power to regulate and develop the halal industry.
“[Other government agencies] have no specific legal mandate to pursue the drafting of halal standards because [the government] should not distinguish religious classes,” Mr. Lidasan said.
“The NCMF, therefore, provides [them] legal right to intervene in halal matters,” he added.
Currently, the country follows the Philippine National Standards on Halal Food, while the Department of Agriculture (DA) is drafting three additional halal standards, namely, “Halal Standards on Agriculture and Fishery Products,” “Code of Halal Slaughtering Practices for Poultry,” and “Code of Halal Slaughtering Practices for Large Ruminants.”
“The NCMF empowered the DA to create these standards on meat, but our department, by law, cannot accredit abattoirs in terms of religious standards such halal,” National Meat Inspection Service executive director Jane C. Bacayo said in a telephone interview.
“The DA’s jurisdiction only extends to enforcing food safety standards,” she added.
Halal, the Arabic for “permissible,” is used to identify any object or action which Muslim scholars and religious leaders deem to be in accordance to Islamic law. — Eliza J. Diaz
Datu Tahir Sinsuat Lidasan Jr., CESO III, Director, Office of the President, NCMF, will be a Panelist at the 6th World Halal Forum, 4-5 April 2011, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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