October 31, 2022 | 00:00
MANILA, Philippines — A senior administration lawmaker has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that aims to revitalize the country’s salt industry through a “comprehensive salt industry development program” that will eliminate the massive importation of salt.
Representative Ron Salo of the Kabayan Party List, Chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs, drafted and sponsored the House Bill of 1976 with the goal of making the Philippines self-sufficient in production salt.
“This bill is the result of many consultations with various stakeholders – salt workers, salt workers and even agency representatives. We have carefully researched and crafted this bill, considering first and foremost the needs of our local farmers,” he said.
Salo pointed to the classic irony that the Philippines imports around 93% of the country’s salt needs, despite 36,000 kilometers of coastline – the fifth longest coastline in the world – which can be used for massive salt production.
“I am pleased to sponsor our Salt Industry Bill. This has been one of my pleas since the 17th Congress; and now, in the 19th Congress, the problems of the salt industry are finally brought under the limelight,” he said.
HB 1976 directs the government to provide technical, physical and financial assistance to sea salt producers, including artisanal salt producers, to develop and improve their crafts.
It also requires the government to invest in the identification and construction of salt farms for lease to qualified salt producers, whether individuals, cooperatives or corporations.
Salo attributed the country’s heavy dependence on imports to “an outdated political regime, poor quality control and product improvement, limited development of new production areas, an unattractive business environment for small businesses and a lack of new investment”.
Businessman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who attended a recent hearing on the issue, praised the bill’s filing, saying that “it’s a bill you don’t expect opposition to.”
Salo is optimistic that support from key stakeholders will push the measure further.
Those who showed support and will provide the House Agriculture and Food Committee with position papers were the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Cooperative Development Authority, and the Department of Science and Technology. .
Other representatives who also showed their support included representatives Richard Gomez (Leyte), Gerville Luistro (Batangas) and France Castro (ACT Teachers party list).
Rep. Wilbert Lee (Agri party list) tabled his own version of the bill.
“I am very happy to now have a co-champion in the revitalization of the salt industry. Along with the chairman, Rep. Lee, and the other members of the committee, I am no longer an isolated voice in the desert calling for the development of the salt industry,” Salo said.