For those still unfamiliar, halal is an Arabic word which means “permissible” and its opposite is another Arabic word, haram, meaning “forbidden.” In Islam, Muslims are obliged to live by the two concepts in everything they do: such as eating, doing business, governing, interacting with other people either Muslim or non-Muslim, and other worldly conduct.
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When applied to food or non-food products, it basically means that people of the Islamic faith must only eat or consume or utilize products that do not contain pork or alcohol or any of their derivatives and other substances which are considered un-Islamic as defined by the Shari’ah or Islamic Law.
With an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world the global halal food and lifestyle products are seen to grow to US$3.7 trillion in 2019 based on the Global Islamic Economy Report.
Other studies put the market value of world halal products in 2016 at $45.3 billion and is seen to grow to $58.3 billion in 2020. The massive international halal market has long caught the attention of the Philippines and wants to take a bite at the halal pie.
One of the ways at promoting and raising the quality of the country’s fledgling halal industry is the holding of international halal conferences to learn from experts from abroad.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) XII headed by Regional Director Dr. Zenaida (Hadja Shayma) P. Hadji Raof Laidan has been at the forefront, holding World Halal Assembly Philippines (WHAP) every year.
On Jan. 18-19 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, Pasay City, DOST XII conducted it latest WHAP participated by international experts from among an estimated 1,000 delegates.
WHAP provided an avenue for experts, entrepreneurs, academe, government, and consumers (Muslim and non-Muslim) where they deep-dived into various issues facing the Philippine halal industry.
The WHAP revolved around the theme “Developing Halal Premium Brand thru Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), which speakers hammered on repeatedly, emphasizing that the concept of halal is as much with religious flavor as with science.
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Earlier this year, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) conducted its own Halal Summit at Conrad Hotel also in Pasay City. NCMF is planning another halal conference in February, but nothing is definite yet.
After two days of intense — at times heated — discussions at DOST XII’s WHAP on issues facing the struggling halal industry of the Philippines, the WHAP adopted a 15-point course of action. Point No. 5 of the recommendations covered the adoption of the global halal standards of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
This is called the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC), crafted to harmonize halal standards of the OIC’s 57-member countries. The OIC is the voice of the Ummah (Muslim world community).
DOST XII had already adopted SMIIC as early as 2015 and had been acknowledged by SMIIC. DOST XII had also crafted its own Halal Logo. DOST XII is leading the initiative to adopt SMIIC nationwide.
Other recommendations in the one-page course of action pertain to embedding peace and security in the country’s halal industry; wide promotion of halal concepts as a means to address bias generated by Islamophobia against Islam and Muslims; and the adoption of Islamic finance side-by-side with halal trade.
In strengthening halal industry, the WHAP also called on the government to issue “Sukuk” or Islamic bonds to help fund halal-related undertakings as well as jump-start a gainful participation in US$3 trillion world halal market.
At the end of the conference, Laidan read the resolution containing the recommendations. She emphasized that the 15-point resolution will be forwarded to national government leaders, apparently including President Rodrigo R. Duterte, and other government agencies.
Laidan said the document will become part of an Executive Summary of what transpired during the WHAP. Contained in the resolution are:
- Campaign and support on the submitted Regional Development Council (RDC) XII Resolution in 2017 to reiterate additional budgetary allocation for DOST XII Halal Laboratory and the issuance of Republic Act (RA) for the Institutionalization of the Philippine National Halal Laboratory and Science Center;
- To incorporate peace and security as integral part of Halal;
- To encourage manufacturing companies to patronize organic Halal raw materials as safe choice for buying by Halal consumers;
- To strengthen engagements and dialogue to bring people together, raising support and awareness in promoting Halal premium brand;
- To encourage HCBs and Accreditation Bodies to adopt the Unified Halal Global Standards of SMIIC;
- Strengthen the promotion of Halal concepts and principles to eliminate media bias as effect of Islamophobia;
- Philippines should gain advantage of its huge potential on Halal Tourism, Banking and Finance, Services, among others;
- The government should develop its own Islamic Banking and Finance System and participate in the Global Islamic Financial Sector;
- The Philippine Halal Industry needs to support Islamic finance by availing itself of financial services to ultimately save Muslim Ummahs (communities) haram (forbidden, illegal) and riba (usurious) transactions;
- Convince the Philippine government to issue a special decree to use sovereing assets for issuance of Sukuk (Islamic bonds);
- The government should launch a sovereign Sukuk program to allow it to return to Islamic market each time funding for reconstruction project is needed;
- Halal as a religious obligation and concept needs to be spearheaded by devout Muslim experts noting Halal integrity;
- Establishment of a Fatwa (Ruling) in view of the significant role of Islamic Scholars and Ulama (high-ranking religious leaders) in determining the Halalness of products in collaboration with a credible institution with Halal Laboratory lik DOST XII;
- Conduct of market research focusing on the country’s Halal producers/manufacturers; and,
- Create common platform for Halal partnerships and linkages.
Foreign halal experts pose for posterity with Dr. Hadja Zenaida P. Hadji Raof Laidan (black & green outfit), regional director of DOST XII, at the conclusion of the 2018 World Halal Assembly Philippines (WHAP).Foreign experts who shared their knowledge at the WHAP included Mufti Mustafa Ceric, president of the Senate, Bosniak Academy of Science and Arts, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Mufti Zeeshan Abdul Aziz, theological director, International Halal Certification, Pakistan; Ihsan Ovut, secretary general of SMIIC, Turkey; Sheikh Muhammad Saeed Navlakhi, theological director, South African National Halal Authority, South Africa; Dr. Munir Chaudry, president, Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), United States of America; Muhammad Zubair, CEO, Al-Huda Center for Islamic Business and Economics, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Rushdi Ahmed Siddiqi, Quest Ventures, USA; Dr. Saber Ali Khan, chief methodologist, Ethnic Focus Global Research, United Kingdom; and Dr. Mughees Shaukat, head of Islamic Finance, College of Banking and Financial Studies, Sultanate of Oman.