To further address the various setbacks in the halal sector and the growing demand for halal products in the country and the global market, the academic sector is now being tapped to serve as a thrustfor the development of a robust Philippine Halal industry.

At the recent Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines- East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) International Halal Congress last March 1-3, stakeholders from the academe, research community, industry, and the government sector from the member countries of the BIMP sub-region gathered to highlight the important role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in advancingthe halalindustry in the country.

The Philippine Halal sector recognizes that  research and development (R&D), as well  science and technology (S&T,  asstaples in the halal industry, but this is the first time for HEIs to be included in the discussions.

Halal is Arabic for any object or action that is permitted or lawful to use in accordance to the Sharia Law. Currently, halal is not only for the Muslim, but is also a healthy choice for non-Muslims. The increasing demand for halal foods pushed halal as a driver for socio-economic growth.

According to University of Southern Mindanao (USM) President Dr. Francisco Gil Garcia, innovations in the halal production through the application of R&D and S&T do not only increase its competency, but also ensure the sanctity of this religious activity for the Muslims.

“As the country aggressively initiates its plan to develop its Halal industry, a parallel effort should also be provided to HEIs to be integrated in the Halal value chain, especially now that the population of our Muslim brothers and sisters is projected to grow in the next years,” Dr. Garcia added.

Meanwhile, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson SecretaryLuwalhati R. Antonino contended that with HEIs now fully on board, the halal sector can now focus on how the academe can contribute in halal development and promotion. The academe can include halal in the curriculum and recognize the crucial role of S&T and R&D in advancing this particular industry.

There is a dire need for more Halal or Halal Science Muslim professionals since it is a must for the Halal industry to be manned by devout Muslims, so there must be enough studies available in HEIs, experts say.

USM, as one of the premier state universities in the Philippines, has already started its initiatives by including halal information in the curriculum, as well as in research, extension, and production. It offersmajor studies in Halal Food Management and Technology for the first timeunder the Bachelor’s degree of Science in Islamic Studies. The university is also working out for the inclusion of Halal Sciencein the curriculum.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) XI Regional Director Dr. Anthony C. Sales also mentioned that research, development and extension  programs in the academe can significantly shape the competencies of the industry in terms of human resource development, establishing standards for production and logistics, laboratory services and quality assurance, and the socio-economics of the halal industry.

S&T also plays a big role in the technologies, laboratories, and facilities used by the industry, especially during production, testing, and certification of Halal products.

Aside from these, the congress also showcased the BIMP-EAGA and ASEAN cooperation through “Big Brother Approach” as a strategy wherein HEIs and other halal stakeholders of ASEAN countries with a developed halal industry will share their respective expertise, experiences, and support to the HEIs of other countries for the advancing of the Halal sector.

“Our main goal is to pursue a unified, sustainable direction for and make Mindanao the halal center in the Philippines, and develop the Philippine halal industry that is at par with our neighboring ASEAN countries. Let us maximize all the opportunities that are coming to us, particularly through a research and development track,” Sec. Antonino added.

Other activities during the event includes an academic forum and Halal R&D poster and product exhibit.

The BIMP-EAGA International Halal Congress: An Academe Perspective, with the theme “Integrating HEIs in the Halal Value Chain”, was a three-day event organized by USM, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture XI and XII, DOST XI, Department of Tourism, MinDA and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

In photo are (from left) Director ofCommission on Higher Education-Higher Education Regional Research Center of University of Southern Mindanao Dr. Emma K. Sales,  a representative from Thailand,Deputy Director of The Halal Science Center in Chulalongkorn University in Thailand Dr. SulidaWangchi, Secretary General of Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) in Turkey Mr. IhsanOvut, Regional Director of the Department of Science and Technology XI Dr. Anthony C. Sales, Specialist at SMIIC in Turkey Engr. YasinZülfikaroğlu, and Chief of Communications Resource and Production Division of DOST- Science and Technology Information Institute Dr. Aristotle P. Carandang, organizers and speakers of the recent BIMP-EAGA International Halal Congress: An Academe Perspective.

(Front row from left) DOST XI Regional Director Dr. Anthony Sales;Head Executive Officer of Office of Senator Cynthia A. Villar; Mindanao Development Authority Chair Secretary Luwalhati R. Antonino; and USM President Dr. Francisco Gil N. Garcia lead  the ceremonial opening of the Halal Congress and cutting of ribbon for the Halal Poster and Product Exhibit (Photos by Romelie Janelle Maranan, S&T Media Service)

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