Philippines plans halal zone to tap ME market

DUBAI — The Philippines is keen on establishing a “one-stop halal zone”, in cooperation with the private sector, that will abide by the strict requirements of Islamic food standards in order to get a slice of the Middle East food market.

By Criselda E. Diala

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Published: Mon 26 Feb 2007, 8:46 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:36 AM

Officials from the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), who took part in Gulfood 2007 held in Dubai last week, said they are mulling the establishment of a halal zone in Mindanao in the southern part of the country that has a predominantly Muslim population. The realisation of the idea, however, depends heavily on the availability of funds from the private sector.

“Our first step on this agenda is to consolidate and encourage all imams or Muslim religious scholars in the Philippines to come up with a single halal accrediting body hopefully by the middle of this year, which will certify that food items for export have been prepared following the strictest halal requirements,” said Clayton Olalia, DA’s Assistant Secretary.

Once the accrediting body is established, Olalia added, the Philippine government will recognise it as the sole national certifier for halal-prepared products.

“Unfortunately, due to a constitutional ruling that separates the church and the state, the Philippine government is banned from using public funds for religious matters. Thus, we are hoping private financial agencies or Islamic banks will help the yet-to-be-formed accreditation body to set up the first halal zone,” he said.

The zone is expected to be a one-stop centre where slaughterhouse, laboratory, certification and packaging units will be located. In the long run, the halal zone will prove to be cost-effective for manufacturers and exporters of halal-prepared Philippine food products.

“The halal food market worldwide is worth about $580 billion (Dh2 trillion) and we’re just targeting one per cent of that, which is $5.8 billion (Dh21 billion),” Olalia added.

He said the Philippines holds a big potential in supplying the food requirements of Muslim states, particularly since it is the only country in Asia that is certified by the World Health Organisation as bird flu-free.

Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Under-secretary of the DA, said they are currently exporting halal food to the Middle East. But apart from locals in the region, the Philippines is targeting Overseas Filipino Workers as consumers.

“We know that the Middle East is a big market and with the large population of Filipino migrant workers here, it is an even more important business venture for us. We have recently drafted an inter-department memorandum of agreement with the Department of Trade and Industry to further improve and boost the country’s export promotion,” she said.

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