DOST says it helped train SEA Games staff on halal food but only in New Clark City

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2019 05:02 PM

The Department of Science and Technology said Tuesday it helped organizers train and certify staff but only in New Clark City.

This, following complaints of the Singapore’s football squad on the lack of halal food options for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Dr. Anthony Sales, DOST Region 11 director and Halal program leader, told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview that they started discussing halal food preparations with the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) since the middle of the year.

“DOST helped PHISGOC in training their staff who will man the kitchens and then the other facilities that will serve the food,” he said. “What I can confirm is that the caterers that were engaged by PHISGOC are halal certified. And the kitchens that will prepare the food are also halal certified.”

However, it was only limited to the New Clark City in Tarlac.

“Our engagement with PHISGOC is limited only to the kitchens in the Athletes’ Village as well as the caterers that will serve food in the opening ceremony,” Sales said.

The 30th edition of the SEA Games is being hosted by the Philippines, which tapped private group PHISGOC, which is headed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, to organize the event. The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said it raised the issue of halal food to the group but they were not further consulted on the issue. 

Sales said he thought PHISGOC also gave instructions for the hotels and restaurants catering to the athletes to serve halal food. 

However, based on the complaint of the Singaporean team that stayed in Century Park Hotel, the halal food options were not adequate. There has also been complaints from Philippine teams about the selection of food being served, some of which lacked nutrition.

Sales said they estimate that around a quarter of the 12,000 delegates from different Southeast Asian countries are Muslims who will need halal food.

“I think the strategy is to serve only halal food. So that Muslim or non-Muslim can partake in the food. And it would be easier for the organizers to prepare that,” he said.

The DOST, which is tasked to provide science and technology interventions under the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2016, said they especially tapped a Malaysian certifying body to conduct the certification and audit of the staff and kitchens at New Clark City.

“Because we recognize that our foreign delegates might expect us to comply with international standards for halal,” he said, explaining that different countries also have different standards on halal. He said they chose a Malaysian group because the nation is leading when it comes to halal food standards.

Sales added it was not not enough to serve non-pork food since pork derivates, gelatin and other types of food with alcohol are also forbidden.

"Halal certification also ensures food safety,” he said.