The Philippines is gearing-up to stake its claim on the trillion-dollar global halal export market following the signing into law of the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act last month by outgoing president, Benigno Aquino.
The legislation is designed to boost the country’s access to 1.7 billion Muslims world wide by stipulating mandatory certification of Philippine-produced halal products for export – products for domestic consumption don’t require certification. This distinction, however, has enraged sections of the Filipino-Muslim community.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and the Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organization have both rejected the Act claiming that it puts the interests of foreign Muslims ahead of those of Filipino Muslims. The NCMF, the sole government agency for Muslim affairs, further claims that its role has been reduced to that of a rubber stamp of the Department of Trade and Industry and that its voice in the development of the halal-goods sector would go unheard.
Presently there are just five halal-certifying organisations in the Philippines, the most active of which is the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines Inc. The sector has around 500 halal-accredited companies, a few of which are involved in exporting their products – mainly to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East.
But they account for a tiny share of the global market which demands halal certification. And of the Philippines top 10 export destinations, there isn’t a single Muslim country.
Philippine certification, however, may not produce the silver bullet that will penetrate these markets. Muslim countries have very strict regulations surrounding halal preparation and would not necessarily recognise product certification from overseas suppliers – particularly a new and untested one. The UAE, for example, requires that all such goods are first vetted by its Emirates Standards and Metrology Authority and must be accredited and re-certified before they can enter the market.