House bill developing Philippines’ local salt industry hurdles panel

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
House bill developing Philippines� local salt industry hurdles panel
A salt farmer collects dried salt from the remaining salt beds of Barangay Sta. Isabel in Kawit, Cavite on August 24, 2022.
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives' agriculture and food panel on Thursday approved a bill aiming to arrest the declining local salt industry by boosting production and mandating stronger government and financial support for salt farmers.

House Bill 1976 or the Philippine Salt Industry Development bill aims to draw up a government strategy that will boost local salt production and eventually inch the Philippines closer towards salt self-sufficiency—a goal that salt producers said can shield the country from global supply chain vulnerabilities.

The bill also seeks to give salt farmers and producers enough funding, training, technical support, and trade and export assistance from the government to achieve salt production targets and decrease reliance on imports.

Rep. Ron Salo (Kabayan Partylist) said that the measure “takes a more proactive and developmental approach to promote the growth and competitiveness of the (local salt) industry” given its wilting state, with the government importing 92% to 93% of the country’s salt.

To give the salt industry its much-needed facelift, the measure will also establishe a Philippine Salt Industry Development Roadmap and the Philippine Salt Industry Development Council, an inter-agency body that will implement all programs related to the development and management of Philippine salt.

The salt industry roadmap aims to ensure sustainable salt production, improve market access for Philippine salt products locally and internationally, introduce new salt development technology and promote public and private investments in salt development programs, among others.

The measure also classifies salt as an agricultural product, transferring it from the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources .

“By classifying salt as an agricultural product and transferring the administration of the salt industry to the DA, we can provide better support to our local salt farmers and producers,” Salo said.

The bill also repeals the requirement for local salt makers to iodize their salt, giving them the "flexibility to cater to different markets," Salo said.

Despite having a coastline 11 times larger than Vietnam, the country only produces 100,000 MT of salt compared to Vietnam’s 1.1 million MT, according to Philippine Association of Salt Industry Networks president Gerard Khonghun.

Khonghun warned at a previous hearing on the bill that without a consolidated strategy to ensure salt self-sufficiency, the country will have to rely on imported salt at a rate of 1.3 million tons worth P6 billion by 2030.

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