Games organizers warned on shortage of halal food
MANILA, Philippines — Organizers of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games have ignored the help of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to ensure halal (permissible under Islamic law) food would be served to teams fielding Muslim players, according to an official of the agency.
“I had warned them about this scenario re: halal food during the interagency meeting for the SEA Games back in September and offered the assistance of the NCMF. We were ignored,” Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos Jr., NCMF director for external relations, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
He made the disclosure as a group of doctors warned that athletes in the Games may face injuries should the organizers continue to fail to provide them with adequate and nutritious food.
NCMF officials were summoned to the first interagency meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City in September for the SEA Games preparations. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), and other heads of government agencies were present.
At the meeting, Ramos said the NCMF raised the concern regarding the halal certification of the caterers for the Muslim guests and athletes, as well as ensuring dedicated areas for the segregated prayer rooms with appropriate “quiblah” markers (pointing to the holy city of Mecca).
The commission’s recommendations, however, were only “noted” and passed to the Philippine Sports Commission.
“But it was always the same answer from them: we will contact you. They did initially, but then it was the NCMF who was always following up and offering to help,” Ramos said.
Limited food options
On Monday, the Singapore national team called out Phisgoc, the overall in-charge of this year’s SEA Games, about insufficient halal food and limited food options for its football, netball and floorball contingents.
In a Nov. 24 letter, Singapore team chef de mission Juliana Seow called on Phisgoc executive director Ramon Suzara to immediately resolve the dire situation the players were facing.
“They had to order outside food to complete their meal and as you may already know, nutrition is a very important part of the preparation and our athletes are starving,” Seow said.
A Philippine team also had to contend with inadequate food.
In a press conference on Monday, Let Dimzon, coach of the Philippine women’s football team, said the players were served “kikiam,” a sausage-like roll street food consisting of minced pork, which is haram (forbidden) for Muslims.
The Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported that its delegation was bringing its own food after the Philippines failed to guarantee that halal food would be served.
“I do not believe that they (the Philippines) can resolve the issue of halal food properly and that is why we have decided to bring our own halal food from here,” said Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Omardin, Malaysia’s chef de mission.
Indonesia and Brunei are also fielding mostly Muslim players in the Games.
Ramos noted the NCMF had the capacity to provide the manpower and expertise that could have avoided these problems.
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