SEVERAL technical agencies South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Soccsksargen) and from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) convened Wednesday in Cotabato City and discussed the essential process for a strengthened Halal industry.

The gathering of the technical agencies was in line with the creation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) following the approval on February 18, 2010 of Republic Act No. 9997 calling for the creation of the NCMF.

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Soccsksargen Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Sani Macabalang pointed out Thursday the mandatory implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9997, which is overdue and crucial after its 90-day leeway period.

"There should be already an IRR today, the 90-day period has lapsed. No other agency except the commission [NCMF] is given the power to promote and develop the Philippine Halal Industry," Macabalang said.

Macabalang said that efforts of different agencies will be counterproductive if there is no law, at least, or executive order that will operationalize the partnership and cooperation with the appropriate technical agencies in implementing Halal programs.

"The government must establish the working relationship and define each individual agency responsibility in the whole Halal development program specifically the incorporation of Halal food processing system such as Halal inspection, Halal audit, Halal quality assurance, Halal laboratory analysis and food security measures, Halal integrity services, in their functions and mandates," he added.

Macabalang puts emphasis on the comprehensive partnership of NCMF and the appropriate technical agencies -- the DA-BFAR together with National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standard (BAFPS) and Bureau of Animal Industry; Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) of Department of Health (DOH); Department of Science and Technology (DOST); Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Tourism (DOT), etc.-- up to the inclusion respectively of the Halal certification and Halal logo as requirement to sell and export Halal food.

The Soccksargen BFAR along with Bureau of Public Information-Armm, DOST-Soccksargen, DOST-Armm and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-Armm collaborate to assist and support the NCMF in the promotion and development of Halal Industry in the Philippines particularly in the technical, regulatory and monitoring functions. (Bong Garcia)