President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is preparing the ground for the development of a local “halal” food industry, with the aim of breaking into the US$80bn global market for meat slaughtered according to strict Islamic rules.

While the Philippines is a predominantly Christian country, there is no established halal industry to cater for its Muslim minority, but that is expected to change as the President prepares an Executive Order to create the Philippine Halal Certification and Regulatory Board.

Macapagal recently returned from a three-day state visit to Malaysia, during which she told Malaysian businessmen that their country’s halal sector may be used as a model for the Philippines’ prospective halal food industry.

In a statement, the Philippine agriculture department revealed that nine halal slaughterhouses would be established in the coming months, of which at least two are tagged to deal with exports to the country’s predominantly Islamic Southeast Asian neighbours.

A Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the Secretaries of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Health, Science and Technology and the Executive Director of the Office on Muslim Affairs, has led to the creation of an inter-agency ad hoc committee to handle the Philippine halal food industry project.

It is imperative that the government ensures its halal meat is acceptable to the strict Islamic standards of its neighbours to ensure the growth of an export trade. Muslim religious leaders and scholars will receive the government’s proposed Guidelines on the Preparation and Handling of Halal Food at a National Halal Forum to be held in Manila in October.

The Philippines is also due to host the seventh meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Technical Working Group on Halal Food September 25-27.