DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Despite repeated reminders and warnings, organizers of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) ignored the advice of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to ensure that delegates from Islamic countries are served halal food.
Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos Jr, NCMF external affairs director, said the agency particularly warned the SEA Games organizers that serving non-halal food would create problems.
"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," he said.
Datu Ramos' statement came in the wake of reports that the athletes were served kikiam, which is a non-halal food, and other meals Muslims normally stay away from.
Singapore chef de mission Juliana Seow wrote a letter the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), headed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday, November 24, "to address the situations we are facing."
Singapore is among countries which fielded Muslim athletes to the biennial regional games. Others were Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Seow said the Singapore contingent resorted to ordering their own food from outside.
"We had tried our best to be patient and understanding. As much as we had tried to resolve the situations ourselves as well as with our sports and you, these situations cannot continue any further as our athletes are badly affected and are not able to prepare for the games effectively,” she said.
Datu Ramos said aside from halal food, he also suggested during the interagency meeting that there must be Qiblah markers (markers indicating the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca), ablution areas, separate prayer rooms, and others to cater to the needs of the Muslim athletes and officials.
"But it was always the same answer from them: we will contact you. They did initially, but then it was the NCMF which was always following up and offering to help," he added.
Though the 30th edition of the SEA Games hosted by the Philippines will officially roll-out with the opening ceremonies on Saturday, November 30, some sports events are being held in advance. Included in these advanced events are polo and football.
Athletes started arriving as early as Sunday, November 24. – Rappler.com