SENATOR Cynthia Villar filed a bill to institutionalize a national standard in preparing “halal foods” to be on par with world-accepted guidelines observed in all abattoirs, outlets, hotels, restaurants and other service establishments.

In Senate Bill No.312 or the Philippine Halal Act, author Sen. Villar wants ”to protect the interest of the people for clean, pure and healthy food. Halal foods are healthy because Muslims make sure that slaughtered animals are also healthy and clean, and pay particular attention to the feeds given the animals.”

The bill seeks for the creation of the Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board (PHARB) tasked to formulate, draft, manage and implement programs relevant to manufacturing, production, distribution, preparation, handling, storage and verification of halal approved-food, non-food merchandise and services.

Just few months back, the only agency of the government now that has the mandate of promoting the Halal Industry in the Philippines is National Commission on Muslim Filipinos – Halal Board where it will accredit Halal Certifying Entities/Bodies (HCB/Es) for the utmost benefit of Muslim Filipinos and in partnership or cooperation with appropriate agencies, individuals and institutions here and abroad.

Though the NCMF can accredit Halal Certifiers in the Philippines, its Halal Board has very vague mandate or has very little power to really push the Halal Industry. For instance, if theres a company who claims that their product is Halal certified and it later found out that the product is contaminated with ‘Haram’ nor non-halal like porks and its derivatives? Can the NCMF punished or sanctioned the said company?

After launching of the NCMF Halal Board, there are only 3 groups applied for accreditation as of this writing. Heres the list:

One of the dominant and visible player in Halal certifications in the Philippines – the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines (IDCP) still or has no plans to apply for accreditation. IDCP still claims that they are the “Sole” Authority in Halal Certifications because they win the case against Office of Muslim Affairs (now NCMF) – based on Supreme Court ruling G. R. 153888 dated 9 July 2003.

If Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board (PHARB) is approved by the congress and signed by the President? Is the NCMF Halal Board will be elevated to PHARB?

The global market for halal foods is estimated at US$547 billion a year or more.

The huge market has drawn interest from food producing countries worldwide. The demand and sale of halal products continue to climb due to the growing number of the Muslim population globally and in the Philippines.

“The concept of halal, which means ‘permissible’ in Arabic, has been traditionally applied to food. But now, goods like cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, clothing and services are also being certified halal. They also adhere to the proper method of slaughtering an animal for consumption, known as dhabihah. There are procedures in the certification of halal food and other products,” Villar said.

She said the government must ensure compliance with international standards of good manufacturing and hygienic practices by institutionalizing a halal system for food, non-food products and services.