Regional 'halal' food law in Bangsamoro region mulled

John Unson - Philstar.com
Regional 'halal' food law in Bangsamoro region mulled
Regional parliament member Romeo Sema is the principal author of the proposed Bangsamoro Halal Consumers Act.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY — An official of the Moro National Liberation Front in the 80-seat Bangsamoro parliament and 26 others have filed a bill aiming to set a comprehensive regional “halal” food standard in all provinces and cities in the autonomous region.

Halal means permissible in Arabic that, as a religious standard, encompasses Islamic norms on selection and preparation of food that Muslims can eat and proper handling and slaughter of livestock for consumption.

The Public Information, Publication and Media Relations Division, or PIPMRD, of the parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao announced on Tuesday that regional legislator Romeo Sema is the principal author of the proposed measure, the Bill 268, or the Bangsamoro Halal Consumers Act.

It is meant to protect Muslims from food and edible merchandise sold in establishments and public markets that are not permitted in Islam, according to the PIPMRD.

Sema, who is vice chairman for political affairs of the MNLF, told reporters on Tuesday that there is “scientific wisdom” in enforcing halal food standards in the local communities owing to its health benefits that some non-Muslim experts in dietary science and medical practitioners are even helping disseminate to the public.

Sema and PIPMRD staff members separately explained to reporters on Tuesday that the Bill 268, if enacted into law, shall set high halal quality standards for agricultural products, on management of abattoirs, or slaughterhouses and prevention of misleading labelling as halal of food products that are sold everywhere.

“There are government entities issuing halal certificates but can’t run after those wrongly using halal seals for food products that have never been submitted for proper screening,” Sema said.

The Bill 268 shall also institutionalize a strict halal certification procedure by BARMM agencies for business establishments, eateries and entrepreneurs engaged in commercial food production.

“It’s not a regional ban on food that non-Muslims can consume freely, without religious restrictions. That should be clear to all. The proposed measure shall only ensure the rights of Muslims to food  and other consumer goods that are permitted under Islamic laws,” Sema pointed out.

Asked for comments about Bill 268, nine senior Christian members of the Bangsamoro Business Council covering the six provinces and three cities in BARMM said they are in favor of it. They are certain it can boost trading of food and other essentials covered by stringent halal certification processes to Muslim buyers.

“That can improve even more the relationship of non-Muslim food traders and their Muslim customers,” a wealthy Chinese owner of a big grocery store along Almonte Extension in this city, who requested anonymity, said.

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