Muslim Filipino group ready to help SEA Games organizers amid halal food concerns

Kristine Sabillo and John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2019 10:47 PM

The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos on Tuesday said it will again offer assistance to the organizers of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games amid complaints about a short selection of halal food.

“We will inform our officials to get in touch again with the organizers,” NCMF executive director Tahir S. Lidasan, Jr. told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview. “We are doing this not just because we are in government but as a Muslim obligation.”

The NCMF revealed earlier that it offered to help the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) ensure that there is halal food at the event. However, the group did not receive any updates from the organizing committee.

In addition to complaints by Singapore’s football team, Malaysian state-run Bernama news agency also reported that Malaysian journalists were having trouble finding halal food at SEA Games venues.

"The difficulty in obtaining halal food in the Philippines is one of the major challenges for media personnel covering the SEA Games 2019," the article read.

This prompted the Association of Sports Writers of Malaysia (SAM) to partner with a Malaysian halal food manufacturer "to sponsor canned food for (Muslim) media practitioners covering the event."

Halal food pertains to dishes that do not have ingredients forbidden to Muslims. This includes pork, pork derivatives and alcohol.

“Cow or chicken has to be slaughtered in accordance to Islamic ritual,” Lidasan said.

The Department of Science and Technology later told ABS-CBN News that it helped train PHISGOC staff and caterers to prepare halal-certified food. However, it was only for the SEA Games’ facilities at New Clark City.

Lidasan said his group could have worked with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in finding halal-certified hotels or catering companies.

He added that his organization also does not know if the organizers have provided proper praying rooms for Muslim athletes, a group the DOST said made up a quarter of the 12,000 athletes participating in the SEA Games.

Lidasan said there should be markers pointing to the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, as well as separate prayer rooms for men and women.

Lidasan said his group doesn’t want to blame anyone and is instead praying that “our teams will win.”

“Now is not the time to talk about our differences, let’s think as one,” he said, adding that any problem can be solved.

“The secretary of the NCMF is willing to assist in whatever capacity to make the SEA Games successful in the Philippines. We are ready to assist, but it has to be conveyed officially.”

2019 SEA Games