Philippine agency on Muslim rights says SEA Games organizers ignored halal food offer
Coach Let Dimzon of the Philippine Women's Football Team.
Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

Philippine agency on Muslim rights says SEA Games organizers ignored halal food offer

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - November 26, 2019 - 10:58am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:46 p.m.) — The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, the body handling operations for the 30th SEA Games, ignored the offer of assistance of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos on serving halal food, an official of the state agency on the welfare of Filipino Muslims said.

"I had warned them about this scenario re: halal food during the interagency meeting for the SEAGAMES back in September and offered [our] assistance," NCMF External Affairs Director Jun Alonto Datu Ramos wrote in his own Facebook account Tuesday. 

"We were ignored."

He later added, "We told the Phisgoc people about this, even approached them several times during the meeting and via text messages."

The statement was referring to a complaint that Muslim athletes were served the same dish of kikiam, eggs and rice for every meal. Kikiam is a non-halal or "unlawful" food as it contains ground pork.

Similarly, the chef de mission of the Singapore contingent at the SEA Games wrote a letter to PHISGOC seeking "urgent and immediate attention" to the issues experienced by their athletes, including their catering woes. 

Other foreign contingents went through logistical nightmares of their own as the football team from Timor-Leste was brought by organizers to the wrong hotel, while members of the Cambodian team had to wait for their own hotel rooms for hours in a conference room, where they were photographed sleeping on the floors. 

"I still don't know if this is a case of typical Filipino 'ningas kugon' mentality, if they thought that the Commission was not the right entity to consult, or if there were anomalies concerning funding that the organizers were trying to hide," Datu Ramos later commented. 

"Having a particular government agency involved in the SEAGAMES preparations to oversee the needs of Muslim athletes is important because the hosting is an international event meant to showcase the entire country."

Even members of the home team fell victim to the culinary malfunction. 

"This morning, hindi enough yung rice, kikiam and eggs [kasi] walang nutrients eh," Philippine head coach Let Dimzon said at a press conference. 

"I think the hotel, they did not do anything, any adjustments in the preparations of the food [and] so that's why ang naging solution namin is to buy food outside," she said.

The general public has been up in arms throughout the week over numerous gaps in the preparation of the PHISGOC for the games, with some on social media calling it a dismal performance on the part of the organizing committee.

'Food in Athlete's Village's main dining hall 100% halal'

A different scene, however, could be expected at the Athletes' Village in New Clark City.

Bruce Lim, the head chef of the Athlete's Village, said their main dining hall is 100% halal.

"The main dining hall for Athlete's Village is 100% halal... So we're gonna have a soup station with bread, we have fresh fruits... we have desserts as well. There's gonna be about seven choices of ulams that they can get or main dishes," Lim said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

He added that they have been in close contact with nutritionists of SEA Games athletes.

"Everyone wants carbs so we have to doublecheck with the nutritionist as well from every team if they want complex carbs or regular carbs. That's why we're working very hard with every nutritionist from every country to tell us the dietary needs of the athlete."

The SEA Games is set to kick off on Saturday, November 30. 

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