THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Soccsksargen called on Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to address the development of Halal Food Industry Program (HFIP) in the country.

Soccsksargen is composed of the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.

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Director Sani Macabalang proposed to Alcala to improve the Philippine National Standard on Halal Food through the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standard (BAFPS).

The BAFPS is tasked to formulate and enforce standards for agricultural and fisheries products as provided in Section 63 of Republic Act 8435 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997.

"We are hopeful that the new administration will significantly take action and provide focus to the development of Halal industry in the country," Macabalang said.

He also reiterates its intention and fervent aspiration to work in partnership and cooperation with BAFPS, National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to support the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) in the promotion and development of Halal industry in the Philippines.

Republic Act 9997 creating the NCMF was approved five months ago.

However, he stressed that sensible working relationship and comprehensible definition of responsibilities through an Executive Order among technical agencies are requisite to the operationalization of the required implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 9997 for the entire Halal development program.

"The crafting of IRR is long overdue after its 90-day leeway period," he said.

He further puts emphasis on the essential comprehensive partnership of NCMF and Department of Agriculture (DA) agencies with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Department of Tourism (DOT) particularly in providing the needed technical support and assistance for the advancement of Halal industry in the Philippines.

Apart from evident job generation yielded, Macabalang said the Philippine Halal Industry has an advantage point and better opportunities to penetrate the multi-billion dollar global Halal market especially now that both Visayas and Mindanao regions have already been declared and recognized by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Animal Health Organization as free from the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and bird flu.

"The fishery, both aquaculture and capture, has a comparative advantage over other neighboring Asian countries. The country now ranks second in world tuna catches and fifth among canned tuna producers. We are eighth on world aquaculture production; third on seaweed production alone," he said.

Macabalang added that with the collective efforts of all agencies concerned, the Philippine Halal Industry would definitely be among the local drivers of economic growth especially now that the country is surviving the global financial crisis. (Bong Garcia)