Salceda says PHL salt industry ‘is not dead’

Focus these days is once again on the dying salt industry in the Philippines, a “shameful” situation for an archipelagic country with one of the longest coastlines. From the few remaining salt beds of Barangay Santa Isabel in Kawit, Cavite and a repacking store in Parañaque City, rock salt makes its journey to consumers’ tables. Press Secretary Beatrix Cruz-Angeles said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is coordinating with other agencies to conduct R&D programs to increase the production of marginal and artisanal salt makers. This would augment the implementation of BFAR’s P100-million Development of the Salt Industry Project for salt makers in Regions 1, 6 and 9.

Albay Rep. and House Committee on Agriculture and Food Vice Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda on Thursday said that the country’s salt industry, which has declined significantly from its peak in the ’70s, “is the easiest agricultural industry to revive.”

Salceda stressed he believes that the salt industry is not dead.

“But it’s a bonsai industry. We try to cut it with so many self-imposed regulations. As an extremely low-margin business, the salt sector has been stunted by regulation,” Salceda said.

But the lawmaker said Congress should repeal the requirement that salt makers must iodize their salt.

“We can keep the requirement that food manufacturers have to use iodized salt. We can require iodization in all school canteens. But we should offer people the choice over their nutrition, not require everybody at the expense of our domestic salt sector,” Salceda, also chairman of the House ways and means committee, added.

“We now import 93 percent of our salt. That is in a country with one of the longest coastlines in the world. Shameful is one way to describe it. Stupid is another way,” he said.

According to Salceda, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should simply create a list of areas where salt making could be viable without any significant environmental restrictions.

“Salt making is one of the less environmentally destructive sectors. We can also do a negative list of areas that are not suitable for salt making due to environmental risks. If you don’t fall into either list, that’s the only time you need to apply for an environmental clearance,” he said.

“That list of suitable locations, mind you, is required of the DENR under the ASIN law, or RA 8172,” Salceda added.

Salceda also wants salt for export to be free from the iodization requirement under Republic Act No. 8172.

“We have artisanal salts. Tibuok in Bohol is one of the best in the world. And yet, they cannot even sell domestically—because they can’t iodize. Even when imported Himalayan salts freely get sold in the market. This is frankly ridiculous,” he said.

Salceda said he would be pushing for amendments to Republic Act No. 8172.

“The problem right now is that RA 8172 amendments are referred to the committee on health, which means the industry considerations and food security concerns are secondary to the health discussions. But I will try to convince Chairman [Ciriaco] Gato [Jr.] and my colleagues that imported salt is far more difficult to regulate for health reasons. We don’t know how they make it.”

“RA 8172 I think exceeded its bounds in that it presumed the State should have the ultimate say about a person’s health choices,” Salceda appointed out. “We have stunted a once-thriving industry as a result of such a presumption.”

Image credits: BusinessMirror/Nonie Reyes


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