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Committee on Agri and Food Holds Public Hearings in GenSan

Two public hearings were conducted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food in the city of General Santos, last April 3 and 4. These hearings were intended to discuss the Philippine Halal Act and the proposed amendments on the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

Senate Bill 312 or “Philippine Halal Act”

The Halal hearing, on April 3, focused on the need to establish a governing board that would take charge on the formulation, drafting, management, and implementation of programs relating to the manufacture, production, distribution, preparation, handling, storage and verification of halal food and non-food products and services.

At present, there are about 50 halal certifying bodies in the Philippines. According to Senator Cynthia A. Villar, Chairperson of the Committee, there have been technical issues on determining whether the products are halal or not.

“There is a need to create a Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board because we still don’t have a common set of national halal guidelines that would govern the certification”, Villar explained.

Through the creation of a governing body, the bill also seeks to increase the competitiveness of Halal food producers in the country by ensuring that products comply with international standards.

Amending Republic Act 8550

There have been several bills filed to amend the Fisheries Code of the Philippines. The hearing on April 4 discussed the proposals made by Villar and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, and Ramon Revilla Jr.

The bills are seeking for higher fines and longer imprisonment for violators of law. Villar and other legislators see the need to impose stiffer penalties to protect the country’s marine resources and creatures, especially those that are classified as endangered.

According to Villar, the violators are not threated by the present penalties. In an interview the committee Chairperson said, “Kasi this [code] was done 15 years ago. Yung penalties dun ay outdated."

Also present during the hearings were the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala and representatives from the local goverment units, DA bureaus and regional offices.

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